With three in and one out in the Atlanta fifth, and left-hander Matt Reynolds trotting in from the bullpen, Rockies broadcaster Jeff Huson remarked “All a ball-player asks for is an opportunity.” The Braves had just pulled even with Colorado, erasing the five-run advantage the Rockies had taken against Braves veteran Tim Hudson in the first inning. Guillermo Moscoso, recalled from Colorado Springs when Jeremy Guthrie fell off his bicycle, wasted a chance to replace Jhoulys Chacin in the Colorado rotation with a second listless performance, allowing six runs in 4 1/3 innings while serving-up 40 balls to his 43 strikes and surrendering seven hits and three walks.
The Rockies started strong. After walking Michael Bourn to open the game Moscoso retired Atlanta in-order. Then with one out in the bottom of the first, Jonny Herrera doubled and Hudson walked Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzski. Todd Helton’s ground single to right scored Herrera and Gonzalez. Michael Cuddyer’s liner to center scored Tulowitzski and brought Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell to the mound. Hudson regrouped to get Ramon Hernandez on a weak grounder, but Dexter Fowler singled-in Helton and Cuddyer with a soft fly in front of Jason Heyward to put Colorado ahead 5-0.
Moscoso gave back two in the third on a Freddy Freeman home run with Chipper Jones aboard. Freeman continued his assault on Colorado pitching with four hits in six at-bats. Moscoso walked the Atlanta lead-off batter for the third time in four innings to start the fourth. Heyward stole second-base, then got himself picked-off after several close calls at the bag. Moscoso got Jack Wilson to end the inning. Then came the fifth.
With one out, Michael Bourn singled, then stole second and advanced to third on Colorado catcher Hernandez’ wild throw. Jones singled-in Bourn and Freeman tallied hit number two, bringing Colorado pitching coach Bob Apodaca to the mound. Moscoso responded by throwing a wild pitch to Brian McCann, who then drove-in Jones and Freeman with a line-single to center. Reynolds came on and got Dan Uggla to ground into a force, but then Heyward singled and Eric Hinske doubled, scoring Uggla for a 6-5 Atlanta lead.
Colorado tied-it back in the bottom of the fifth on Herrera’s second 2012 home run, then both teams scored in the sixth to make it 7-7. Herrera continued his strong work when called-upon, going 2 for 3 and adding two walks in five plate appearances. Reynolds escaped a shaky sixth unscathed and Matt Belisle allowed a single in the seventh.
With Rex Brothers taking over in the eighth the Rockies began to flash some leather. Michael Cuddyer turned-in what may have been the best defensive play of the year to-date when Freddy Freeman drove the ball over his head to the wall in right-center. Sprinting to his right, Cuddyer took the carom off the wall perfectly, then turned and fired a strike to Herrera at second, nailing Freeman has he slid to the plate side of the bag. It wasn’t that the play was spectacular and it wasn’t that the play was difficult. What it was was simply elegant.
Then in the tenth, with Bourn, who had doubled, on second and Jones on first, Helton dove to his left on a screamer down the first base line by Freeman, snagging it and giving Josh Roenicke room to wiggle out of the jam. In the eleventh Wilin Rosario made his first appearance as a professional at third base and the ball quickly found him. Tyler Pastomicky had pinch-hit for Atlanta reliever Chad Durban and singled, scoring when Hinske delivered the two-run shot to right that proved the coup-de-gras. After SS Wilson flew-out, Matt Diaz ripped a drive down the third base line. Deep behind the base, Rosario fielded the shot with his back to the plate, then leaped and threw high across the diamond to Helton, nailing Diaz by half a step.
Alas, it went for naught as the Rockies rallied to get one back in the bottom of the inning, but finally fell short.
The two teams tee it up again tonight, with Atlanta’s Mike Minor facing Colorado’s Jamie Moyer at 6:40 pm MDT. TV on Root, radio 850 KOA.
ROCKIES SET TO HOST ATLANTA FOR THREE
Moscoso to Face Hudson in Opener; Last Dance for Jones at Altitude
B-team scribe and sometimes Braves fan at your service this weekend.
The Rockies open up a three-game set tonight against the Atlanta Braves, looking to take 2 of 3 series on the nine-game homestand that winds-up Sunday. Colorado will send Guillermo Moscoso to the hill against Atlanta’s Tim Hudson. Both right-handers are making their second MLB starts of the season. Moscoso, standing in for Jeremy Guthrie, still recovering from the Cannondale incident that landed him on the DL, hopes to improve dramatically on the weak performance he delivered against the Mets on Saturday. Moscoso aims to remain in the Colorado rotation in place of Jhoulys Chacin, who was optioned to AAA Colorado Springs on Wednesday.
In his first start Hudson pitched five innings and allowed two runs while striking out six and picked-up a victory in his appearance against Pittsburgh last Sunday. Braves clean-up man and catcher Brian McCann is in the line-up despite taking a finger in the eye from teammate Michael Bourn while celebrating soon-to-retire 3rd-baseman Chipper Jones’ game winning home-run in the 11th inning against Philadelphia on Wednesday night. It’ll be the final series at Coors Field for the long-time Atlanta slugger.
Colorado is coming off its most dramatic victory of the season Wednesday against the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers, when Jason Giambi blasted a three-run pinch-hit walk-off shot, sealing a victory after the Rockies blew two leads earlier in the contest. Left-fielder Carlos Gonzalez is on-fire for Colorado, nicking Los Angeles for three home-runs and seven RBI in the just-completed series, raising his batting average to .310 and logging all seven of his homers since April 24. Manager Jim Tracy is going with Jonny Herrera in the 2-hole at 3rd base, with center-fielder Dexter Fowler, the Atlanta native, dropping to eighth. The line-ups:
CF Michael Bourn
3B Chipper Jones
1B Freddie Freeman
C Brian McCann
2B Dan Uggla
RF Jayson Heyward
LF Eric Hinske
SS Jack Wilson
P Tim Hudson
2B Marco Scutaro
3B Jonathan Herrera
LF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
RF Michael Cuddyer
C Ramon Hernandez
CF Dexter Fowler
P Guillermo Moscoso
It’ll be the first of only seven games for the Rockies against Atlanta, the three this weekend to be followed by four in the ATL starting Labor Day in September when both teams plan to be pushing for October play-off bids.