Atlanta still ‘clicking on all cylinders’
by Charles Odum
Associated Press Sports Writer
August 01, 2013 12:13 AM | 820 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Backed by a prolific offense — and even an RBI of his own — Mike Minor kept the Rockies in check with just two hits over seven shutout innings.
<BR>Associated Press photo
Backed by a prolific offense — and even an RBI of his own — Mike Minor kept the Rockies in check with just two hits over seven shutout innings.
Associated Press photo
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ATLANTA — Big innings are helping the Atlanta Braves add to their big lead in the NL East.

Mike Minor allowed only two hits in seven scoreless innings, Brian McCann hit a three-run homer in Atlanta’s seven-run third, and the Braves beat the Colorado Rockies 9-0 Wednesday night for their sixth straight win.

The Braves have scored at least six runs in one inning while winning the first three games of the four-game series. Atlanta has scored 29 runs in the three wins.

Freddie Freeman drove in two runs with four hits and Justin Upton had three hits. The Braves continued their offensive surge with 15 hits.

“We’re clicking on all cylinders,” Freeman said.

Atlanta is threatening to run away with the NL East race. The Braves lead second-place Washington by 11 games in the division, their biggest advantage in nine years.

Braves general manager Frank Wren didn’t make a trade-deadline deal Wednesday after he acquired left-hander Scott Downs for the bullpen Monday. Wren didn’t feel pressure to add another piece to what he said already is the most complete team in his six years as general manager.

“All in all, we’re pretty happy,” Wren said before the game. “Our club is playing as well as we have in a long time.”

Minor (11-5) didn’t walk a batter and didn’t allow a Colorado baserunner to reach second base.

Tyler Chatwood (7-4) allowed a career-high seven earned runs on 10 hits, one walk and one hit batter in only 2 1/3 innings.

Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez left the game in the fourth inning after aggravating his sprained right middle finger. Manager Walt Weiss said the disabled list was a possibility for Gonzalez.

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said it was frustrating to lose back-to-back games by a combined margin of 20-3.

“These last two games have just been bad,” Tulowitzki said. “We got our butts kicked.”

While the Rockies have struggled, the Braves have delivered big innings in three straight games.

“I can’t remember a time ever in my career three games in a row they scored, what, six-plus runs?” Tulowitzki asked. “Six in two games, seven (Wednesday)? In one inning?

“Putting together hit after hit. ... A little bit of everything. It’s a tough series.”

Dexter Fowler led off the game with a single up the middle and was thrown out by McCann attempting to steal second. That was the only baserunner Minor allowed until Nolan Arenado’s single with two outs in the fifth.

Minor, coming off a strong outing in a win over the Cardinals on Friday night, has given up two or fewer runs in five straight starts. He threw 95 pitches, 70 for strikes.

Minor said the biggest challenge was staying sharp through the Braves’ long innings and maintaining his edge with the big lead.

“It’s hard to keep the focus as tight when you have a big lead like that,” Minor said.

Freeman’s single in the first inning drove in Jason Heyward, who reached on second baseman Charlie Culberson’s fielding error.

The Braves’ first six batters reached base in the third inning. Freeman and Evan Gattis had run-scoring singles before McCann’s 15th homer pushed the lead to 6-0. Minor’s RBI single knocked Chatwood out of the game.

Freeman singled and scored on Chris Johnson’s single off Adam Outman in the fourth.

Gonzalez, playing with a sprained middle finger on his right hand that affects his ability to grip the bat, lost the bat on his follow-through while striking out to end the first. The bat hit catcher McCann’s shoulder, and he slumped forward for a few seconds before walking to the dugout.

Gonzalez, who throws left-handed, threw out Dan Uggla at the plate from left field in the second inning as Uggla tried to score from second on Andrelton Simmons’ single. TV replays indicated catcher Yorvit Torrealba may have missed Uggla on his swipe tag, and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez came out for a brief exchange with home-plate umpire Marty Foster.

DJ LeMahieu pinch-hit for Gonzalez in the fourth inning.

There was a delay in the seventh after Rockies right-hander Wilton Lopez hit Simmons with a pitch. The ball glanced off Simmons’ chest and then squarely hit Foster’s left forearm. Foster left the game after he was examined by Braves assistant trainer Jim Lovell. X-rays were negative.

Umpire Marvin Hudson moved from first base to take over at home.

Luis Ayala pitched the final two innings and stranded two baserunners in the ninth.

NOTES: The last time the Braves led the division by 11 games was Oct. 2, 2004. ... Chatwood’s ERA climbed from 2.48 to 3.15 with the ugly start. ... Braves GM Frank Wren said he had a few calls “but nothing that had a lot of traction” before the trade deadline. Wren said it was a “strange” trade market and “the asking prices were very high.” ... Freeman had his second four-hit game of his career. His first was May 4, 2012, at Colorado. ... Faces in the crowd: Former boxing champion Evander Holyfield, former Braves manager Bobby Cox and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. ... Rockies RHP Chad Bettis will be called up from Double-A Tulsa to start in his major league debut against the Braves tonight. RHP Julio Teheran will start for Atlanta.

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