Rockies Vs. Braves: Atlanta Sweeps Colorado, Craig Kimbrel Sets Saves Record

The Rockies have underperformed in 2011 and their starting rotation isn't very good. Do they have enough offense to challenge Atlanta this week? We'll tell you inside.

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Rockies Vs. Braves: Atlanta Sweeps Colorado, Craig Kimbrel Sets Rookie Saves Record

The Braves have it all working for them right now. Tim Hudson pitched well, the offense continues to score runs, and the bullpen is just as good as it has been all season long. For a Rockies club without Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Todd Helton, they honestly had no chance against the hottest team in baseball.

Knowing that he had the next ten days off, Tim Hudson let it all hang loose on the mound and threw 116 pitches while working through 7.1 innings. He allowed just three runs on five hits -- two or three of which were either infield hits or weak bloopers to the outfield -- and three walks. Hudson struck out three in route of his eighth victory.

Rockies starter Juan Nicasio, who throws a fastball about 90 percent of the time, worked through the Braves lineup one time before getting pounded. The Atlanta batters got their timing down and the hit parade was on after two inning. Nicasio lasted just 2.1 innings and have up five runs on seven hits and three walks. He fell to 3-2 on the season.

The Rockies had an early 2-0 lead on Thursday afternoon and both RBIs were courtesy of Jason Giambi, who replaced Todd Helton in the Colorado lineup. That was all the scoring the team would do for a while, though.

Jordan Schafer led off the third inning with a ground-rule double and Alex Gonzalez put together a phenomenal at-bat to drive in Schafer with an RBI-single. Chipper Jones singled and Freddie Freeman smacked an opposite-field 3-run homer to give Atlanta a 4-2 lead. The home run was Freeman's 13th of the season and fourth of the series. Dan Uggla followed with a double and Jason Heyward drove him in with a single to add another run to the scoreboard.

The Tim Hudson show ensued after the offensive outburst and he made relatively quick work of all the Colorado hitters outside of a jam or two.

Jason Heyward hit his ninth home run of the year in the fifth on a no-doubt line drive to right-center field to give Atlanta a 6-2 lead. Heyward should have also had an RBI-single in the seventh, but he was (wrongly) called out at first base on a bang-bang play.

Eric O'Flaherty replaced Hudson in the eighth and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch, but Jonny Venters came in and recorded the final out of the inning with the bases loaded.

Craig Kimbrel came in to close out the game and recorded his 27th save of the season. Not only does it give him the Major League lead for saves, but it also gives him the saves record by a rookie at the All-Star Break with three games to go. The kid is special, folks.

Atlanta wins 6-3 and sweep Colorado out of town. 

One of the biggest series of the year begins Friday night in Philadelphia. With the Braves just 2.5 games out of first place, a sweep would put them in first place. At the same time, if Atlanta was to be swept they'd sit 5.5 back and all momentum for the second half would be lost. Needless to say, it's a big series with big implications. First pitch is at 7:10 and it'll be Brandon Beachy against Roy Halladay in a stellar pitching matchup.

FanGraphs Graph of the Game:

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Rockies Vs. Braves: Dan Uggla Has Another Big Night, Atlanta Wins 9-1

The Braves haven't blown out a team in quite a while. That changed on Wednesday evening and the full-out onslaught of a struggling Rockies team was on from the first at-bat of the game.

The Braves scored three in the first inning, two in the third, two in the sixth and two in the eighth. Jair Jurrjens was solid once again (6IP, 5H, 1ER, 2BB, 2K) and the trio of Scott Linebrink, George Sherrill and Scott Proctor combined to work three scoreless innings to finish out the game. Atlanta is now 52-36 this year.

Aaron Cook started for Colorado and was hit early and often. The veteran sinker-baller lasted five innings, but gave up ten hits, seven runs and one walk. He fell to 0-4 and his ERA is now 5.82. Rex Brothers, Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt worked the final three innings in relief.

Jordan Schafer recorded four hits, Chipper Jones hit a 2-run homer down the left field line, Eric Hinske roped out two hits while starting for Jason Heyward, and (most importantly) Dan Uggla went 2-for-3 with a walk, two RBIs and a monster home run. He looks dialed in and like the Dan Uggla of 2006-2010, folks. 

This is fun.

The Braves will go for the sweep Thursday afternoon at 1:05. It'll be Tim Hudson against Juan Nicasio.

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Rockies Vs. Braves: Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla Homer, Derek Lowe's Double Lead To 5-3 Win

The Atlanta Braves are playing really good baseball right now.

Freddie Freeman homered for the third time in two games, Dan Uggla homered, doubled and walked twice and Derek Lowe came up with the big hit courtesy of a bases-clearing double. The Rockies battled back, but the Atlanta bullpen was too much for them to overcome.

Lowe wasn't sharp on Tuesday, but we worked through 5.1 innings and gave up five hits and three walks, most of which coming after he had to run the bases following the double. He struck out four and improved to 5-6 on the season with the victory. George Sherrill, Cory Gearrin, Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel combined to work the final eleven outs and allowed just three hits and a walk.

Jhoulys Chacin is typically dominant on the mound, but he struggled mightily with his control tonight and it ultimately led to his demise. He allowed just four hits in five innings, but walked six Braves, a team that generally doesn't take many walks. He struck out five and fell to 8-6 on the year.

Freddie Freeman provided the early scoring for the second game in a row, this time on a monster solo-home run to center field to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead. Derek Lowe came up to the plate in the fourth with the bases loaded and drove a 2-2 fastball down the left field line to clear the bases.

The Rockies battled back in the fifth. Jhoulys Chacin recorded his first RBI of the season with a ground out to second base and Charlie Blackmon drove in Ian Stewart with a single to right field. Chris Ianetta cut the lead to 4-3 in the sixth with an RBI-single to left.

Dan Uggla came up with a much needed insurance run and blasted the first pitch of the sixth inning more than 400 feet to the left field seats. That was all the scoring the Braves would need with their bullpen in the game.

Eric O'Flaherty worked a scoreless seventh, Jonny Venters worked around a walk and single to get out of the eighth and Craig Kimbrel recorded his 26th save of the season while striking out two.

The Braves have clinched at least a series split with the victory and improved to 51-36 this year. Atlanta will go for the series victory Wednesday evening at 7:10. It'll be MLB's wins and ERA leader Jair Jurrjens against the struggling Aaron Cook.

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Rockies Vs. Braves: Freddie Freeman's Big Night Leads To 4-1 Atlanta Victory

The Braves reached their 50th victory of the season with a 4-1 defeat of the Colorado Rockies. They pitched well, played solid defense and scored just enough runs to win the ballgame. What Atlanta did in nine innings on Monday night was practically what they've done for three months now, and it's defintiely working well.

Tommy Hanson, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel combined for a four-hitter against a potent Rockies lineup and gave up just one run. The trio struck out six and walked just two. Hanson recorded the victory, which improves him to 10-4 this season, and Kimbrel posted his 25th save of the season. Venters appeared to be a bit rusty in his inning of work, but it was the first time he had pitched since Wednesday, June 29.

Ubaldo Jimenez started for Colorado and threw 117 pitches over the course of just 5.1 innings. He struck out nine, but also gave up six hits, a walk and three runs. He was dominant for most of the evening outside of a pitch or two. Rockies relievers Rex Brothers, Rafael Betancourt and Matt Reynolds combined to work the final two and two-thirds innings.

Freddie Freeman hit the first of his two homers in the first inning. Brian McCann singled in the previous at-bat to bring the hot-swinging Freeman up to the plate. He took a high, 1-1 fastball and sent it deep towards left-center field. The ball landed ten rows deep and was a majestic blast from the moment it left the bat. 

Todd Helton continued his strong season in the fourth inning and got Colorado on the scoreboard with an RBI-single to cut the lead to 2-1.

Jason Heyward doubled in Brian McCann in the sixth and Freeman added his second home run of the game in the eighth. With the two homers, Freeman now has 11 for the season and improved his OPS to .795.

Tuesday night will feature the Rockies best pitcher, Jhoulys Chacin, in a matchup with Derek Lowe. First pitch is at 7:10, weather permitting.

Notes:

 

  • All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki left the game in the fourth inning after experiencing pain in his right quadriceps muscle. The injury isn't expected to be severe, but Tulo will likely miss at least two games before attempting to return to the lineup.
  • Carlos Gonzalez didn't play Monday evening after a violent crash with the Coors Field wall on Sunday, but he could possibly make his return to the lineup for Tuesday's game.
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Rockies Vs. Braves Series Preview: Colorado, Ubaldo Jimenez Return To Turner Field

The under-performing Colorado Rockies will be in Atlanta for a four-game series this week as Atlanta looks to continue gaining ground in the NL East and Wild Card races. The Rockies, who currently sit at 41-43, will likely be without slugger Carlos Gonzalez for the series after a scary crash with the outfield wall on Sunday's game at Coors Field. This is an unfortunate break for Colorado, but it is a pretty good sized advantage for Atlanta.

Let's take a closer look at Jim Tracy's club...

Offense:

Statistics and NL Rank:

Runs: 382 (3rd)
BA: .255 (9th)
OPS: .742 (2nd)
wRC+: 95 (6th)
SB: 52 (10th)
BB%: 9.0% (2nd)
K%: 21.4% (8th)

Missing CarGo will be a blow for the Colorado lineup, but they still have a few talented hitters who can do some damage at the plate. Troy Tulowitzki (.272/.341/.498, 120 wRC+) is the best shortstop in the game and is a wizard in the field. Todd Helton (.320/.394/.492, 132 wRC+) is having a monster season after a few years of slowing down and outfielder Seth Smith (.301/.353/.518, 129 wRC+) is one of the most underrated hitters in baseball, even though he tends to struggle against lefties. Catcher Chris Iannetta (.227/.384/.438, 123 wRC+) continues to get the job done and either walks or strikes out in 49.4% of his at-bats.

Third baseman Ty Wigginton (.263/.321/.504, 129 wRC+) has come out of no where to have a nice season for Colorado. Dexter Fowler (.238/.340/.348, 78 wRC+) still hasn't figured it out at the plate. Recently acquired second baseman Mark Ellis is 8-for-15 since joining Colorado last week. Charlie Blackmon (.280/.306/.329, 71 wRC+) has recently received a bit of playing time while Gonzalez is out. And don't forget about bench player Jason Giambi; he to be the best pinch-hitter in baseball with his big time power.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday, 7:10EDT - Tommy Hanson vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (SportSouth)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Tommy Hanson 9-4 15 15 0 0 0 0 89.1 62 29 26 8 33 97 2.62 1.06
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Ubaldo Jimenez 3-7 15 15 2 1 0 0 91.0 84 51 44 7 39 78 4.35 1.35


Tuesday, 7:10EDT - Derek Lowe vs. Jhoulys Chacin (SportSouth)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Derek Lowe 4-6 18 18 0 0 0 0 101.2 100 48 47 7 38 76 4.16 1.36
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Jhoulys Chacin 8-5 17 16 1 1 0 0 104.2 77 39 36 14 43 92 3.10 1.15


Wednesday, 7:10EDT - Jair Jurrjens vs. TBA

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Jair Jurrjens 11-3 15 15 2 1 0 0 104.2 88 24 22 5 23 63 1.89 1.06


Thursday, 1:05EDT - Tim Hudson vs. TBA

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Tim Hudson 7-6 17 17 1 1 0 0 106.0 95 49 42 8 27 76 3.57 1.15


Bullpen:

ERA: 4.13 (11th)
xFIP: 3.52 (3rd)
K/9: 7.61 (7th)
BB/9: 2.73 (1st)

The Rockies bullpen is pretty darn good. Their numbers are up a bit because of Coors Field and a little bad luck, but they're a capable bunch who can hold a lead. Houston Street has 24 saves and his talented set-up man is Matt Lindstrom. Lefty Matt Reynolds is very tough on left-handed batters and has been solid this year. Matt Belisle is their primary seventh inning man and Rafael Betancourt has pitched much better than his 4.73 ERA would indicate.

In conclusion...

The Rockies are a good team outside of their starting rotation. They'll miss Carlos Gonzalez, but they have a capable offense and two tough starters to begin the series. The Braves should win three of the four, but don't be surprised if Colorado battles back for a series split.

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