Braves 6, Rockies 3

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DENVER (AP)—Coors Field is not one of John Smoltz’s favorite places. He got through it Thursday night with a little help from a good friend.

Smoltz scattered nine hits over seven innings and Andruw Jones hit a three-run homer to help the Atlanta Braves beat the Colorado Rockies 6-3.

Smoltz (14-9), whose $8 million option for 2007 was picked up by Atlanta earlier Thursday, limited the Rockies to three runs, struck out seven and walked none.

Joe Prince, a friend who is battling a rare form of leukemia for the second time, flew in from Atlanta to watch him pitch and provided a little more motivation for the right-hander.

“We’ve known each other for a long time,” Smoltz said. “It’s neat to have him here after what he’s been through twice. That’s why pitching in Coors Field, as much as I hate it, pales in comparison to what people go through sometimes.”

Smoltz’s final strikeout of Garrett Atkins in the sixth—with two on in a 4-3 game—gave him an even 200 for the year. It’s his fifth career 200-strikeout season and first since 1997. The eight seasons between 200-strikeout campaigns ties the longest in major league history with Bert Blyleven.

And now Smoltz is locked up for next year with Atlanta.

“I’m glad that I can honestly speak about the Braves for next year rather than just waiting until it happens,” he said.

Colorado’s Byung-Hyun Kim (8-12) tied a season low by giving up only four hits, and he struck out six in seven innings. But he walked four, two of which came around to score.

Colorado led 3-1 heading into the sixth but Willy Aybar drew a walk and Adam LaRoche singled ahead of Jones’ 37th homer of the season. Jones also had a sacrifice fly in the first and has driven in 120 runs this season, the second-most in his career. He had 128 last season.

“I thought I missed it,” Jones said of his drive. “It was one of those cheap homers.”

Aybar added a two-run single off Jeremy Affeldt in the ninth.

Smoltz was hit on the back of the ankle by Brad Hawpe’s liner up the middle in the bottom half of the sixth, but remained in the game. He’s gone at least seven innings 21 times this season.

“He was outstanding,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “He made some tremendous pitches.”

Matt Holliday hit his 30th home run of the season in the second for the Rockies, a 442-foot shot that landed in the second deck in right-center. He also singled in Kaz Matsui in the third to help Colorado take a 3-1 lead.

Holliday is the ninth Colorado player to hit 30 home runs in a season.

“It will be a memorable one,” Holliday said of connecting for the milestone homer against Smoltz.

Todd Helton followed Holliday’s homer with a double, but Jones robbed Hawpe of extra bases with a diving catch in center. Helton later scored on Chris Iannetta’s sacrifice fly to right.

“Fortunately, Andruw Jones, who in a season where there has been a ton of injuries, plays every stinking day,” Smoltz said. “Otherwise, we don’t win the game.”

Tyler Yates pitched the eighth and Bob Wickman got three outs for his 16th save in 17 chances.

Atlanta’s streak of 14 consecutive postseason appearances is in jeopardy with nine games left. The Braves are five games back in the NL wild-card race. The Mets have already clinched the NL East title.

Kim allowed four runs.

“Kim was better,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “If he could have one pitch back, it would be the slider to Jones. He (Jones) has made a living doing that.”

Notes

The Rockies activated RHP Ubaldo Jimenez on Thursday. … Atlanta’s Chipper Jones sat out Thursday’s game because of sore toes on his right foot. … Willy Aybar had two hits, including a two-out, two-run single in the ninth.

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