Chacin gets first win for Rockies


By David O'Brien

By David O'Brien

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DENVER (MCT) — If the past two games at Coors Field weren't the absolute midseason nadir for Atlanta's offense, then it could be a long summer for the Braves and their fans.

The Braves managed just four hits in a 10-3 loss Thursday that gave them a four-game series split against the skidding Colorado Rockies, and it's worth noting they were shut out on two hits through seven innings by previously winless starter Jhoulys Chacin.

What had been an ugly day for the Braves turned downright nasty in the eighth inning when catcher Gerald Laird had to be helped off the field after being hit in his facemask and right jaw by Corey Dickerson's bat on his backswing. Reliever David Carpenter was then ejected after plunking Dickerson in the leg with the next pitch.

Laird was only shaken up and didn't have any broken bones or cuts. He took concussion tests administered at the ballpark and was cleared to fly home with the team.

Rockies manager Walt Weiss, a former Braves shortstop, was ejected after coming out of the dugout and yelling at Carpenter and other Braves. He was angry that Braves pitcher Julio Teheran had also hit Jeff Rutledge in the head with a pitch Wednesday.

Rockies reliever Nick Masset and the Rockies bench coach were also ejected in the ninth inning after Masset hit Braves catcher Evan Gattis in the back of his left arm with a pitch. Gattis dropped his bat and trotted to first base as if nothing happened.

The sound and fury of the late innings overshadowed what had been largely a dismally quiet afternoon for Braves hitters, who were shut down for most of two games against a Rockies team that had been 1-11 with a 7.17 ERA in its past 12 games before Wednesday.

The last three games of the series were a microcosm of a wildly inconsistent and frequently dysfunctional Braves offense, while also serving as a reminder that a pitching staff that was otherworldly during the Braves' 17-7 start couldn't be expected to maintain its early season pace, and hasn't.

The Braves made Rockies starter Chacin look like a household name and not a pitcher who had a 5.35 ERA before Thursday, when he didn't allow a hit against anyone other than Tommy La Stella. Chacin (1-4) gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings, with two walks and five strikeouts.

Ervin Santana (5-3) was charged with six runs and seven hits (including two homers) in 61/3 innings, falling to 1-3 in his past six starts, and Braves reliever Jordan Walden had his second troubling performance in as many appearances since returning from the disabled list Tuesday after missing more than a month with a strained hamstring.

Walden gave up two hits, two runs and a walk in two-thirds of an inning, after walking three of four batters faced Tuesday.

But the larger, continued concern for the Braves has to be the offense, which couldn't put together anything against unproven or entirely undistinguished Rockies starters in consecutive games in a ballpark that is the most hitter-friendly in the majors.

The Braves posted season-highs of 13 runs and 16 hits in Tuesday's 13-10 win in the second game of the series, then mustered just six runs and 11 hits in the last two games of the series, against a left-hander making his major league debut and against Chacin, who had a .286 opponents' batting average and .384 opponents' OBP at Coors Field before Thursday.

In each of the past two games, the Braves were shut out through the first seven innings. Tyler Matzek had a 4.05 ERA in Triple-A before being called up to make an emergency start Wednesday, when the left-hander took a perfect game through five innings and a two-hit shutout to the eighth inning against the Braves.

Chacin allowed fewer than three runs in only one of his previous seven starts this season, and never fewer than two. That was until Thursday, when the Braves didn't get a runner to second base against him until La Stella's leadoff double in the fifth. They never advanced a runner to third against Chacin.

The Braves trailed 8-0 before scoring three runs in the eighth against reliever Adam Ottavino on Jason Heyward's line-drive RBI double off the right-field scoreboard and B.J. Upton's two-run homer.

The Braves also trailed 8-0 through seven innings Wednesday before scoring two runs in the eighth inning off Matzek.

La Stella, who has seven multi-hit games in his first 13 major league games, was the only Brave to reach base through six innings Thursday, on a single in the second and doubled in the fifth.

When Chris Johnson and La Stella drew consecutive one-hit walks in the seventh, Andrelton Simmons grounded into an inning-ending double play.

And so it went for the Braves, whose loss Wednesday dropped them out of at least a share of first place in the National League East for the first time since May 8.

The Braves are 6-10 with a 4.87 ERA in their past 16 games, and the pitching that carried them when the offense sputtered earlier in the season has come back down to earth. Meanwhile, the offense continues to disappoint. And the rival Nationals have heated up.

The Braves entered Friday a game behind the Nationals, who were 10-2 with a 1.40 ERA in their past 12 games before Friday's finale of a four-game series at San Francisco. Washington had won the first three games in that series against the team with baseball's best record.

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