Atlanta (41-43) at Colorado (45-39)

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Temp: 56° F
  • Game info: 8:40 pm EDT Thu Jul 9, 2009
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The Atlanta Braves’ recent play has moved them into contention in the NL East, but facing the surging Colorado Rockies could slow them down a bit.

The Rockies look to win their fourth straight Thursday night when they open a four-game series against the visiting Braves.

Colorado (45-39) completed its third sweep in its last five home series with a 10-4 victory over lowly Washington on Wednesday. Ryan Spilborghs(notes) hit a bases-clearing triple during a four-run fifth and Troy Tulowitzki(notes) had three hits, including a two-run homer. Tulowitzki entered Wednesday 4 for 33 (.121) in his previous eight games.

“Today was a good day for me, because for the past week, I felt like I haven’t had my good swing,” Tulowitzki told the Rockies’ official Web site. “It was nice to respond. When I’m using both sides of the field, that’s when I’m at my best.”

Colorado has been among baseball’s hottest teams the past five weeks, going 25-7 since June 4, including 12-3 at Coors Field. The Rockies have won four of six on their nine-game homestand, with the rotation compiling a 2.97 ERA during that span.

The Rockies may need another strong outing from Aaron Cook(notes) (8-3, 3.76 ERA), who takes the mound Thursday, given how well Tommy Hanson(notes) (4-0, 2.25) is pitching for the Braves.

Hanson is looking to become the first Atlanta rookie to begin a season 5-0 as a starting pitcher since Larry McWilliams went 7-0 in 1978. Jung Keun Bong began the season 5-0 as a rookie reliever in 2003.

“It’s just been awesome,” Hanson told the Braves’ official Web site. “I think having so much early success has made it a lot more fun.”

Hanson left Saturday’s start against Washington with a 3-1 lead, but the bullpen fell apart and the Braves lost 5-3. The right-hander gave up three hits in seven innings while striking out five.

Cook has been just as good for Colorado, though, posting a 1.98 ERA in his last six outings.

After winning five straight starts, Cook did not receive a decision Saturday against Arizona after allowing three runs - two earned - and nine hits in five innings of an 11-7 loss.

Cook is 1-1 with a 4.19 ERA in eight starts and two relief appearances versus the Braves. He pitched a four-hitter against them May 21 in a 9-0 victory.

Atlanta (41-43) has won seven of its last 10 and is coming off its first road series win since May 11-13 against the New York Mets. The Braves took two of three versus the Cubs this week, winning Wednesday’s finale 4-1.

Atlanta won for the second straight game without Chipper Jones(notes), who is day-to-day with a strained right groin. Kenshin Kawakami(notes) allowed one run in six innings and Casey Kotchman(notes) homered in the sixth.

Despite their recent run, the Braves still trail Philadelphia and Florida in the NL East.

“We need to get this cut back down to two by the break if we can,” manager Bobby Cox said. “You’re not out of this until you’re 12 or 13 games out. That first year we won the division (in 1991), we were (9 1/2 games) out at the break.”

The Braves and Rockies split a four-game series in Atlanta in May. In the wins, Atlanta scored 20 runs and hit .380, while in the losses, they were held to one run and batted .153.

Jones has an 11-game hitting streak against the Rockies, during which he’s 16 for 41 (.390). He’s 4 for 12 against them this season.

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Starting Pitchers

T. Hanson CWS vs. A. Cook COL
11-4 Record 11-6
2.89 ERA 4.16
116 K 78
46 BB 47
1.18 WHIP 1.41


Thursday, Jul 9