The Atlanta Braves look to overcome one of the hottest pitchers in the NL since the All-Star break when they close a three-game series against Aaron Cook and the Colorado Rockies at Turner Field on Sunday.
Atlanta (58-53) avoided a third straight loss with a 6-4 win over Colorado on Saturday. The second-place Braves pulled within 4 1/2 games of the division-leading New York Mets and one-half game ahead of Philadelphia.
The Braves will try to continue their run at their 15th division title in 16 seasons against Cook (8-6, 4.13 ERA), who is sixth in the league with a 1.82 ERA in four starts since the break.
The right-handed sinkerballer has won his last three outings, posting a 1.52 ERA while allowing only 16 hits in 23 2-3 innings in that stretch. Cook, who has never won four consecutive starts in his six-year career, gave up two earned runs in 7 2-3 innings of a 6-3 victory at Florida on Tuesday, lowering his ERA to 2.94 in 12 road starts.
“He’s just in a good zone now,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “There’s less effort, more power, more sink, more crispness to his slider.”
Cook is 0-1 with a 5.81 ERA in six career games—four starts—against the Braves. He’s also 1-4 with a 5.31 ERA in day games this year.
He’ll start for a Colorado club that has won five of seven games to pull back into the NL West race. Saturday’s loss, however, dropped the fourth-place Rockies (56-53) 4 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona.
Atlanta’s Andruw Jones was used only as a ninth-inning defensive replacement on Saturday after having a cortisone shot in his left elbow Friday night. Jones will likely miss Sunday’s game but said he plans to return when the Braves open a six-game road trip against the Mets and Phillies on Tuesday night in New York.
“I will be back in there on Tuesday,” Jones told the Braves’ official Web site. “That’s why I went to get it, so that I can be ready to play against the Mets and Phillies.”
The Braves will count on newcomer Mark Teixeira to help make up for Jones’ absence. Teixeira, who was acquired from Texas on Tuesday, is 8-for-21 (.381) with three homers and six RBIs in five career games against the Rockies. The switch-hitting first baseman homered in each of his first three games with the Braves before an 0-for-4 performance on Saturday.
Atlanta will send Chuck James (9-8, 3.70) to the mound, hoping that the left-hander can overcome his struggles against the Rockies.
James is 1-0 with a poor 8.03 ERA in three career games, including two starts, against the Rockies. In his lone start against them this season April 27, he was reached for four runs in 5 1-3 innings, but got the win in Atlanta’s 9-7 victory.
Like Cook, James has pitched well since the break. He is 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four second-half starts, and 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA in six outings since June 29. On Tuesday, he had his worst outing in that stretch, allowing four runs in five innings against Houston, but the Braves gave him five runs of support in the 12-4 victory.