The team’s starting third baseman the previous four years before a batting slump cost him the job this season, Atkins came through as a pinch-hitter with a two-out, two-run double in the eighth inning Thursday night to lift the Rockies past the Atlanta Braves 7-6 for their fourth consecutive victory.
“Any time you have a chance to get the game-winning hit, whether you’re on the bench or starting, it feels good,” said Atkins, a career .298 hitter whose average hovered near .200 for much of the season. “But it probably feels better even more so coming off the bench to help the team, because you’re not out there for the rest of the game and it’s kind of your only chance to do it. It was nice to come through.”
Manager Jim Tracy said Atkins has shown he can handle a tough situation, whether it’s dealing with a demotion or a pressure-packed at-bat.
“To step up and once again be the professional, I can’t say enough good things about him,” Tracy said. “It’s not easy being in the position that he’s in, but he’s a pro and he took one terrific at-bat for us.”
Ian Stewart(notes) started the rally by drawing a one-out walk, and Mike Gonzalez(notes) (3-2) then hit Chris Iannetta(notes) with a pitch. Gonzalez retired Carlos Gonzalez(notes) on a pop up before Atkins, batting for reliever Juan Rincon(notes) (1-0), lashed a double down the left field line to snap the third tie of the game.
“I’m frustrated,” Mike Gonzalez said. “I thought I threw a good pitch and he hit it. I threw the pitch where it needed to be. But you walk a guy and hit a guy, too. That’s asking for trouble.”
Neither starter in a matchup between a rising star and established veteran figured in the decision.
Unbeaten rookie Tommy Hanson(notes), whose 26-inning scoreless streak was snapped last Saturday, allowed four runs and six hits in five innings. His overall ERA rose from 2.25 to 2.85 after giving up the second-most runs in his career. Hanson allowed six runs in his major-league debut, a no-decision against Milwaukee on June 7.
Aaron Cook(notes), the winningest pitcher in Rockies’ history, lasted 5 2-3 innings, giving up five runs and nine hits, including Brooks Conrad’s(notes) sixth-inning RBI single that put the Braves ahead 5-4.
In the fourth, Hernandez replaced Escobar, who left the game with a lower back strain. Escobar’s status was described as day to day by the team.
NOTES: Braves 3B Chipper Jones(notes) did not start for a third consecutive game because of sore right groin. He pinch-hit in the eighth, drawing an intentional walk. Manager Bobby Cox said there was a chance Jones could return to the lineup Friday. … Tracy said reliever Manuel Corpas(notes), on the DL with bone spurs in his right elbow, has passed his first significant rehab test. Corpas had no issues with pain after throwing an inning at Triple A Colorado Springs on Wednesday and is on track to pitch another inning Saturday. … The previous Rockies’ rookie record for stolen bases was 17 by Quinton McCracken(notes) in 1996.