Rockies split series with contending Braves

Sep 4, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies right fielder Charlie Blackmon (19) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run against the Atlanta Braves in the third inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies scored a pair of victories over the likely playoff-bound Atlanta Braves in a series split at Coors Field over the weekend.

The first three games of the series were all decided by one run. In the opener, the Rockies found themselves down 3-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning as a result of another poor outing from spot starter Chi Chi Gonzalez. But Charlie Blackmon’s grand slam put Colorado ahead by a pair of runs. But Yency Almonte, who is still struggling to find his form after spending the previous season as one of the team’s most reliable relievers, allowed three runs–including a two-run homer–and surrendered the lead in the process. The Braves went on to win, 6-5.

Blackmon homered again the following night in support of Antonio Senzatela, who allowed three runs in seven innings in what was his fifth consecutive quality start. The Rockies won that game, 4-3, to even up the series. Colorado took 2-1 series lead with a 7-6 victory on Saturday. Blackmon went deep for the third consecutive game and C.J. Cron, who was named the National League Player of the Month for August, hit his 26th homer of the season. Germán Márquez still isn’t back to his usual dominant self, but he pitched better than he had in quite a while, holding the Braves to two earned runs in five innings. He struck out five.

The Braves on Sunday broke the streak of one-run games by jumping all over Rockies starter Ryan Feltner, who had a tough major league debut. Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies sent the first pitch of Feltner’s big league career over the right field wall for a leadoff homer, and Feltner allowed a couple more long balls before being pulled with two outs in the third. The rookie right-hander allowed six runs on five hits and a pair of walks in 2 2/3 innings. Sadly, it didn’t much matter how effective Feltner was, because the Rockies finished with just two hits, both of which came off the bat of Raimel Tapia. Right-handed reliever Julián Fernández also made his big league debut in the game and hit 102 mph on his fastball in a scoreless first inning of work before allowing three runs–including a homer–in his second frame.

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Blackmon didn’t play in the finale, but perhaps he should have. The veteran outfielder finished the series 5-for-10 with three homers and eight RBI. Blackmon has had a nice second half, hitting .288/.331/.523 since the All-Star break. He has nine homers during that stretch after leaving the yard just four times in the first half.

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Garrett Hampson has struggled offensively for basically the entire season, but throughout the year he’s at least been able to find his stroke when the Rockies return to Coors Field. However, that didn’t happen against the Braves. Hampson went just 2-for-12 in the series, though he showed some signs of finding his stroke during the previous two weeks of play. But before that, the 26-year-old utility player was mired in a .145/.224/.174 stretch from the start of the second half through the middle of August.

Consistent plate appearances would probably benefit Hampson more so than anything else, but that’s also the case for players like Sam Hilliard and, when he comes back from the injured list, Yonathan Daza. It will be interesting to see how Rockies manager Bud Black handles that during the season’s final month.

Up next

The 63-74 Rockies welcome the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants to Coors Field for a three-game set starting on Monday afternoon. The series opener will be broadcast nationally on ESPN as part of the network’s Labor Day coverage. The game will feature a matchup of Colorado natives on the mound, with the Giants sending Kevin Gausman to the hill opposite Kyle Freeland.

The Rockies don’t currently have starters lined up for Tuesday and Wednesday as they attempt to reshuffle the rotation amid injuries and poor performance.