Crooked numbers were the name of tonight’s game, however, as Atlanta responded with three runs in the top of the fifth.
Neither team would plate a run in the final four frames, and the Braves returned to the win column after a three-game sweep by the Dodgers. The Rockies were unable to play spoiler in the NL East standings after the second-place Phillies won this afternoon, as Atlanta has retained their two-game divisional lead.
Charlie Blackmon blasts fourth-career grand slam
Tonight was a fireworks game, courtesy of Charlie Blackmon:
Atlanta starter Touki Toussaint fed one in the happy zone for Blackmon, launching one 432 feet into right-center field. Colorado sent 10 hitters to the plate in the third inning, decimating the pitch count of Toussaint and forcing him out of the ballgame after just three innings of work.
Chi Chi González falls short of four innings
With Jon Gray placed on the injured list, hybrid starter Chi Chi González found his way back into the rotation. He made his second start since being placed on the COVID IL in late July.
He tossed 79 pitches, doing himself no favors with four walks. One of those walks turned into a run scored, while two of those walks were on base when he was pulled in the fourth.
Atlanta heats up their cold bats
Entering tonight, the Braves were swinging some of the league’s coldest bats. They posted the seventh-lowest wRC+ (81) and a .682 OPS in the past two weeks, all while clinging onto a narrow divisional lead.
They were able to string together seven hits tonight, with right fielder Jorge Soler leading the charge with a 2-4 showing and a solo homer in the game’s second at-bat. Austin Riley hit fourth for the Braves and also had a multi-hit game, driving in two runs.
Atlanta’s fifth and sixth runs came off the bat of Adam Duvall with a homer in the fifth.
Yency Almonte bails out González, but is hit hard after
Bud Black brought in Yency Almonte with two runners on and he ended the threat with a flyout. The fifth inning would open to a different tune, however, as Almonte allowed a double to Freddie Freeman and a single to Austin Riley to open the frame.
Dansby Swanson cashed in the first run of the inning with a sac fly, followed by Duvall’s two-run blast to give the Braves a one-run lead. Almonte would exit after one inning.
Sixth-through-ninth inning: Rockies bullpen locks it down
Good news: the Rockies threw four perfect innings to close out tonight’s game.
Lucas Gilbreath collected three flyouts, two strikeouts and a groundout, while Tyler Kinley put together five ground ball outs with one out in the air. It was much-needed relief for a Rockies lineup that could be down two starters in the immediate future.
Atlanta’s bullpen locks it down even longer
Braves manager Brian Snitker went to his bullpen in the fourth and they were lights out for the entire evening. Five different arms combined to collect 18 outs, and three of those six innings were three-up, three-down frames.
Atlanta closer Will Smith tossed a scoreless ninth for his 30th save of the year.
Antonio Senzatela will toe the rubber on Friday after one of the best outings of his career. He threw seven shutout frames against the Dodgers on Sunday en route to a 5-0 victory, and the right-hander has allowed one earned run in his last 14 innings of work.
Senzatela could be asked to work deep into the game in an effort to preserve the bullpen, as both Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland could miss time due to injury.
Atlanta will counter with right-hander Huascar Ynoa, currently holding career-best figures in ERA (2.90), WHIP (1.00) and strikeout percentage (26.8%). He got off to an exceptional start this season but after a tough outing on May 16, he fractured his hand while punching a dugout bench.
Ynoa missed three months of work, but he’s picked up right where he left off since returning in mid August. He’s posted a 2.60 ERA over his last three starts.
Thanks to the solid work of Kinley and Gilbreath, the Rockies can breathe a little easier knowing their bullpen has been mildly replenished. Meanwhile, the Braves will be forced to reassess their reliever card after a tough series with the Dodgers and a laborious Thursday where they sent six arms to the mound.
Game two of this four-game set is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. on Friday, with temperatures in Denver projected in the 70’s.