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Braves 4, Rockies 3

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The Atlanta Braves overcame record-setting cold Tuesday and the Colorado Rockies, hitting three home runs in a 4-3 victory in the first game of a split doubleheader.

It was 23 degrees when Jeff Francis threw his first pitch, a record low temperature for the start of a Rockies home game.

After pitching well in the Rockies' home opener, Francis had his third successive poor start. He had not allowed a home run in 12 innings in his previous three starts but gave up three homers to the Braves in four innings before departing.

The Rockies entered the season hoping Francis, 32, could be a dependable veteran at the back end of their rotation, which has not been the case so far. In his past three starts, Francis is 1-1 with a 12.60 ERA, having allowed 22 hits and 19 runs (14 earned) in 10 innings with eight walks and 11 strikeouts.

The doubleheader will force the Rockies to bring back a starter on three days' rest Saturday night at Arizona. That could be Francis, who threw 75 pitches against the Braves, including three he regretted.

Justin Upton hit his 10th homer of the season in the first inning and Dan Uggla put the Braves ahead 3-0 in the second with a two-run shot. Rookie Evan Gattis' homer gave the Braves a 4-3 lead in the fourth.

Upton and Gattis walloped change-ups that sat in the middle of the plate, and Uggla drove an elevated sinker over the fence in straightaway center field. Gattis has homered in all five ballparks in which he has played.

Atlanta' sMike Minor, who had allowed one run in 19 innings in his first three starts, gave up three runs and five hits in six innings. After Dexter Fowler's leadoff single in the fifth, the Rockies were held hitless by Minor, Luis Avilan, Eric O'Flaherty and closer Craig Kimbrel, who posted his eighth save in as many save opportunities.

Kimbrel came back from a 3-and-1 count to strike out Michael Cuddyer on a high 95 mph fastball. He threw Wilin Rosario a first-pitch curveball, which Rosario lined to center for a single. Kimbrel went to 3-and-0 on Jordan Pacheco but threw three straight strikes, the last called on a 95 mph fastball. The game ended when Rosario broke for second on an 0-and-1 pitch to Chris Nelson and was caught stealing on botched hit-and-run when Nelson swung and missed.

The Rockies scored twice in the second, which began with a walk to Troy Tulowitzki and Cuddyer's double to left center. Rosario's groundout scored Tulowitzki, and Jordan Pacheco followed with a run-scoring single.

Fowler led off the third with a triple -- extending his franchise record to 51 triples -- and scored on Josh Rutledge's slow roller to second base.

Rob Scahill, who was recalled Sunday, made his 2013 Rockies debut and worked three scoreless innings in relief of Francis.

Reed Johnson went 4 for 4 with three doubles for the Braves. He tied his career best with four hits and set a career high with the three doubles.

NOTES: Braves right fielder Jason Heyward underwent an emergency appendectomy on Monday evening and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he visited Heyward in Rose Medical Center in Denver before coming to the ballpark and Heyward was fine but "just drained" after surgery. Infielder Tyler Pastornicky was recalled from triple-A Gwinnett and was with the Braves for the first game. In Heyward's absence, Gonzalez said Johnson and Jordan Schafer would play right field. Upton played right field with Arizona before joining the Braves this year, but Gonzalez said he would leave Upton in left field, where he has played well and adapted to the position rather than move him to right field in Heyward's absence. ... Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, who is on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Saturday, underwent an MRI on Monday that showed a mild back strain but no damage to his left oblique. "Everything was fine," Chacin said. "It's a strain in my back and a little bit in my lat, but it wasn't bad." Chacin, who is eligible to be activated May 5, will travel with the Rockies to Phoenix after Thursday's game. After the Rockies' weekend series there, he will report to their complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., where if all goes well -- and the Rockies don't have to adjust their rotation due to a postponement -- he will throw bullpen sessions in preparation for one rehab start April 30 before facing the Rays on May 5 at Coors Field. ... The previous low temperature for the start of a Rockies home game was 28 degrees on April 12, 1997, against Montreal and last Thursday against the New York Mets. Both of those were also day games.

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