Rockies 9, Braves 2
ATLANTA (AP)—Since early May, Jeff Francis has been nearly perfect. He wouldn’t take all the credit, however, calling himself fortunate instead.
Francis (12-5) allowed a run and six hits in six innings. The left-hander, who has won seven straight decisions, didn’t walk any and struck out eight. He’s 7-0 in his last 10 starts and 11-1 in his last 17.
After a 1-4 start, his only loss since then was 4-2 on June 8 at Baltimore.
“Every win is satisfying. Our offense has bailed me out on several occasions. Like tonight. It all adds up to what it is,” said the 26-year-old left-hander.
“I made the right pitches. I had a good fastball so I could be aggressive. To get four runs in the first two innings off (John) Smoltz is huge. It takes the pressure off,” said Francis.
“He’s been on a nice role,” said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. “He showed up big for us tonight. He made big pitches when he needed to, didn’t give up any walks and had good command.”
Kazuo Matsui went 3-for-5 and scored three runs for the Rockies.
Mark Teixeira hit a solo home run in the ninth, his third in three games since being traded to Atlanta from Texas.
The Rockies, who have won five of six, moved a season-high four games over .500 (56-52) for the first time since finishing a sweep of the New York Yankees on June 21, before going on a 1-9 road trip.
Colorado scored two unearned runs in the opening inning off Smoltz (10-6) when Teixeira booted a two-out, bases loaded grounder off the bat of Brad Hawpe, scoring Willy Tavaras, who doubled and Matsui, who had singled.
“I pride myself on defense, so I’m more upset about not making plays than striking out with men on base,” said Teixeira.
The three-run homer by Atkins in the seventh made it 7-1 and ended the night for Smoltz. Atkins went 3-for-5, including a double in the third and a single in the ninth.
“I’ve been feeling good the last few games. I’m just trying to keep it simple,” said Atkins. “It’s just one of those things where you’re feeling good.”
Troy Tulowitzki added a two-run single in the ninth.
Smoltz allowed seven runs—five earned—and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings. He walked four and struck out five.
“I kept us in the game in a game that I did not have any rhythm whatsoever,” said Smoltz.
The cooled-off Braves, losers of two in a row after winning three, had scored in double figures in their previous four games, getting 49 runs on 68 hits.
“Good pitching beats good hitting every time. If you don’t make good pitches, this team will crush you,” said Hurdle.
Teixeira, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, wasn’t surprised the Braves had an off night at the plate.
“Our offense has been scoring runs. We were bound to have a night like this, where a good pitcher shut us down,” he said.
Atkins has 14 RBI in his last 11 games and 70 on the season. … Braves SS Edgar Renteria was placed on the 15-day DL after spraining his right ankle in the eighth inning of Thursday night’s 12-11, 14 inning loss to Houston on a one-hop liner by Ty Wigginton. He was hitting .336 with 11 homers and 53 RBI. He was replaced by rookie Yunel Escobar. … The Braves signed former major league pitcher Ryan Drese to a minor league contract. He had a 34-39 record and 5.31 ERA in parts of six seasons with Cleveland, Texas and Washington. He underwent Tommy John surgery in April, 2006. … Smoltz got career strikeout 2,900, fanning Holliday for his fifth of the game.