With a new cleanup hitter in their lineup, the Atlanta Braves are on fire at the plate.
Atlanta’s offense looks to keep up its torrid pace as the Braves open a three-game series Friday night against the Colorado Rockies at Turner Field.
The Braves (57-52) have scored in double figures in each of their last four games, racking up a total of 49 runs and 68 hits over that span. Atlanta, which lost 12-11 in 14 innings to Houston on Thursday, hadn’t scored in double figures in four consecutive games since doing it in five straight July 14-18 last season.
The Braves bolstered their lineup at the trade deadline Tuesday, picking up slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira from Texas. Teixeira homered and drove in four runs in his Atlanta debut on Wednesday and went 2-for-7 with a homer, double and two RBIs on Thursday.
“You don’t expect games like that,” Teixeira said of the back-and-forth extra-inning defeat, “but someone had to lose it.”
Matt Diaz and Andruw Jones also homered Thursday for the Braves, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. They fell into third place in the NL East, 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading New York Mets, who won in Milwaukee on Thursday.
Shortstop Edgar Renteria, who has hit in six straight games and is batting a team-high .336 this season, left in the eighth inning with a sprained right ankle and is listed as day-to-day.
The Braves have won 10 of their last 12 home games against the Rockies (55-52), dating to 2002. They took two of three in Colorado in April, scoring 22 times in the series.
The Rockies are hoping their young ace can slow Atlanta’s offense. Jeff Francis (11-5, 4.12 ERA) is 6-0 with a 4.61 ERA in nine starts since his last defeat on June 8 in Baltimore, and has won 10 of his last 11 decisions.
The left-hander is coming off an impressive 6-2 home win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday in which he allowed two runs in 7 2-3 innings.
“I threw a lot more strikes early in the count where maybe they took a few more defensive swings,” Francis, who had given up at least five runs in four of his previous six starts, told the Rockies’ official team Web site. “From the last two starts, that’s the biggest difference.”
Francis is 2-2 with a 7.97 ERA in four career starts against the Braves. He gave up four runs and 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings in a 9-7 home loss on April 27 in his only outing against them this season.
The Braves will also have their ace on the hill as John Smoltz (10-5, 2.84) makes his fourth start since a stint on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. The 40-year-old right-hander, who had not been on the DL since 2003, has gone exactly seven innings in all three of his starts since coming back.
He gave up three runs on Saturday, but the Braves lost 4-3 in 10 innings in Arizona.
“You can’t throw any better,” manager Bobby Cox told the Braves’ site. “He pitched great.”
Smoltz is 11-4 with a 3.43 ERA and in 31 career appearances - 17 starts - against the Rockies. He has won each of his last two outings against them, including a 6-2 victory at Coors Field on April 28 in which he allowed two runs in seven innings in his lone 2007 start against them.
Smoltz will try to slow down a Rockies team that has won four of five, including Thursday’s 4-3 win over Florida. Matt Holliday doubled home the tying run in the eighth inning and scored on Garrett Atkins’ sacrifice fly.
“We pitched good tonight, and we found a way to score one more run than them,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “That’s the sign of a good ballclub.”
The Rockies have struck out 28 times in their last two games.