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Braves' Wood shuts down Rockies for first win

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- Rookie Alex Wood is making a case to remain in the Atlanta Braves' rotation.

On a team that's looking for someone to replace veteran Tim Hudson on the starting staff, Wood stepped forward and raised his hand. In only his third career start, the left-hander pitched seven solid innings and earned his first major league victory in Atlanta's 11-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday.

Wood (1-2) made the longest appearance of his career. He gave up three runs on six hits and one walk while recording a career-high seven strikeouts. After he surrendered a two-run homer to Nolan Arenado that gave Colorado a 3-1 lead in the second, Wood faced the minimum 12 batters over the next four innings.

"I settled down and (catcher Brian McCann) took control and we were clicking," Wood said. "It felt good to do that starting-wise. It was definitely exciting."

Wood was a starter in the minor leagues, but was needed to work out of the bullpen for the Braves earlier this season. His role changed when Paul Maholm went on the disabled list with a wrist injury and Hudson was lost for the season with a broken ankle. Wood said Tuesday was the first time he's felt "normal."

Wood, who pitched at the University of Georgia, is now 1-1 with a 5.02 ERA as a starting pitcher.

"He's got some deception and a funky delivery," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. "You don't get a good look at the ball. He did a good job."

Atlanta's hitting star was Freddie Freeman, who hit a solo homer in the first and a three-run homer in the seventh, his 12th and 13th of the season and the fourth multi-homer game of his career.

Colorado starter Juan Nicasio (6-5) was tagged for 10 hits and a career-worst eight runs in four innings. Nicasio is now 0-3 with a 9.62 ERA in four career starts against Atlanta.

"It was mistakes," Weiss said. "It's all about where you throw it, and he got the ball in the middle of the plate."

It was the worst outing for Nicasio since he was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs on July 12. He allowed only one run over his previous 19 innings.

Nicasio was staked to a 3-1 lead Tuesday before the fourth inning, when Atlanta put together a six-run rally for the second straight night. Jason Heyward, who had three hits, delivered a two-out RBI single. Evan Gattis lined a two-run single past the glove of Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and McCann followed with a three-run homer, his 14th.

Gattis is now 3-for-5 with 11 RBIs when batting with the bases loaded.

"We get two outs and they ended up getting six," Weiss said. "We've had a hard time staying away from the big inning."

Atlanta had 14 hits and won its fifth straight game. The Braves (62-45) are 17 games over .500 for the first time this season, and they increased their lead in the NL East to 10 games over the second-place Washington Nationals.

"When we keep the line moving and having quality at-bats, we can do that," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You can see guys' at-bats are getting better and better."

NOTES: Atlanta 3B Chris Johnson extended his hitting streak to eight games. ... The Braves placed OF Reed Johnson on the 15-day disabled list with left Achilles tendinitis. Johnson injured the leg while running out a ground ball in Sunday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He is the team's third outfielder on the DL, joining Jordan Schafer (right ankle contusion) and B.J. Upton (right adductor muscle strain). Upton will go to Triple-A Gwinnett for three or four rehab starts beginning Wednesday, and Schafer likely will do the same this weekend. ... OF Todd Cunningham was recalled from Gwinnett to take Johnson's place. ... Colorado recalled RHP Chad Bettis from Double-A Tulsa. Bettis, the team's second-round draft pick in 2010, was 3-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 12 starts. He could start the series finale Thursday night. ... Atlanta C Gerald Laird was unavailable because of a kidney stone. He was diagnosed Sunday after experiencing severe pain.
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