Brandon Beachy held the Colorado Rockies scoreless for six innings and Freddie Freeman homered and tripled as the Atlanta Braves swept Colorado in three games at Coors Field.
With Rockies’ manager Jim Tracy increasingly desperate for depth from his starting pitchers, Juan Nicasio was cruising along nicely with two outs in the third when the Atlanta batting order turned-over for the first time. Lead-off hitter Michael Bourn singled as did left-fielder Martin Prado, bringing Freeman to the plate. Governor Hickenlooper better look sharp, because Freeman owns Colorado and the result was predictable, a big fly into the bullpens.
The Braves were threatening to blow the game open in the fourth, Jason Heyward having walked and scored after consecutive singles by Juan Francisco and David Ross and a force-out by Tyler Pastornicky. With runners on first and third with one out Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez tried a suicide squeeze that busted. Beachy missed the bunt and Hernadez ran-up the third-base line to tag Francisco. Pastornicky had meanwhile wandered toward second base, and Hernandez threw to Tulowitzski to stop him in his tracks. Tulowitzski threw to Scutaro who chased Pastornicky down 10 feet short of second base. Atlanta added two in the sixth on Freeman’s triple and singles by Dan Uggla and Francisco.
Beachy, meanwhile deployed a preposterous strategy against Rockies’ hitters, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of the first 21 he faced. Colorado hit the ball hard, but heading into the seventh Beachy had retired 14 straight batters when he ran out of gas. Troy Tulowitzski led-off with a single and advanced to second on a slow roller by Jason Giambi to Beachy, who threw him out at first. Tulowitzski then made third on a Beachy wild-pitch and scored on Michael Cuddyer’s single. Ramon Hernandez followed with a third single to center, Cuddyer to second. Beachy then walked Dexter Fowler and Gonzalez went to his pen for Cristhian Martinez. Pinch hitter Tyler Colvin drove-in Cuddyer with a force-out to second and Martinez retired Marco Scutaro to end the threat. Martinez went-on to finish, retiring the Rockies in order in the eighth and ninth.
Colorado heads to San Diego with Drew Pomeranz to face Edinson Volquez at 8:10 MDT at Petco Field. After Pomeranz the starters are unknown and the bullpen is running on fumes.
In retrospect the wheels started to come-off for Colorado back in Pittsburgh on April 25, when the Rockies needed six relievers to negotiate the traditional double-header that compensated for a prior rain-out. Then the team returned home and used five relievers in the 18-9 blow-out of the Mets, then 4, 5, 4, 3, 4, 6, 4 and 3 to accomplish the homestand. Guillermo Moscoso flopped as a stand-in for Jeremy Guthrie, Jhoulys Chacin got himself demoted, and neither Pomeranz, Moyer nor Nicasio have been good for more than six innings. Jim Tracy is cutting and pasting frantically and no one is stepping-up.
After three in San Diego Colorado heads up the PCH for three against the division leading Dodgers at Chavez Ravine and three more with the Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco before returning to Coors Field on May 16 to face the Diamondbacks for two to close-out a round-robin of the NL West.
Suck it up and tough it out.
BRAVES’ CHIPPER JONES TO MAKE FINAL REG SEASON APPEARANCE AT COORS
Rockies Look to Nicasio to Salvage Series Finale
Chipper Jones is retiring in November following an eighteen career likely to land him in the Hall of Fame. Jones is out of the line-up for Atlanta in the final game of the Braves’ only 2012 appearance in Denver, but will no doubt make some kind of cameo for the benefit of Rockies fans. Colorado sends Juan Nicasio to the mound in an attempt to salvage one of three in a series that’s proved to be a nightmare for the Rockies, who blew a five-run first inning lead on Friday and a six-run lead in the second last night. Atlanta will counter with Brandon Beachy.
The lowly Braves took Jones with the number one pick of the 1990 draft after the immortal Todd Van Poppel, the consensus top-prospect, pulled a “John Elway” and made it clear he would not sign with Atlanta. Jones moved quickly through the Atlanta system and joined the team for the stretch run of the magical 1993 season when it unexpectedly coalesced mid-season to snatch the then National League West division title from the San Francisco Giants on the season’s final day. Early in Spring Training the following year however Jones blew-out the ACL in his left knee and missed the entire 1994 season. Healthy in 1995, Jones debuted as the Atlanta third-baseman, sliding over from shortstop, which he had played coming-up, in deference to incumbent Jeff Blauser. Fifteen productive and generally injury-free seasons followed, and Jones moved from third-base to left-field and occasionally back to short defensively, adjusting to the Braves’ needs and personnel.
Then in August of 2010 Jones blew-out the ACL again, bringing an end to what had been a poor season that had prompted him to consider retirement as it played-out. Like the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera vows in recent days, Jones refused to let the injury end his career and was able to rehab effectively enough to be in the line-up at third to start the 2011 season. He managed to appear in 126 games in 2011, batting .275 with 18 homers and 70 RBI. To-date in 2012 he is ripping-it-up, hitting .318 with 5 home runs and 21 RBI in 18 games. Against Colorado so far this weekend he’s gone 6-11 with one of those homers and 7 RBI.
Atlanta teams have won 1585 games (54.3%, 88 per) with Jones as the sole common denominator. They won 12 division titles, 2 pennants, and the 1995 World Series. Jones was the NL Most Valuable Player in 1998. For his career, in 2405 games, Chipper Jones has hit .304 with 458 home runs, 1582 RBI, an OBP 0f .402 and slugging percentage of .533.
Beachy is a 25 year-old right-hander from Kokomo, IN, in his second year with the Braves. He managed 9-6/3.68 marks with Atlanta in 2011 and is 2-1 with a sparkling 1.38 ERA in 2012. Nicasio is looking for his 3rd 2012 win against no losses and is rocking a 3.32 ERA. The line-ups behind them:
CF Michael Bourn
LF Martin Prado
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
RF Jayson Heyward
3B Juan Francisco
C David Ross
SS Tyler Pastornicky
P Brandon Beachy
2B Marco Scutaro
3B Jonathan Herrera
LF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Jason Giambi
RF Michael Cuddyer
C Ramon Hernandez
CF Dexter Fowler
P Juan Nicasio