Braves-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

The slumping Atlanta Braves have cooled off quite a bit since getting off to a blazing start. Coming off their first home loss, the Colorado Rockies are looking to get back on track, too.

The Braves won't have struggling slugger Jason Heyward on Tuesday - and for a while longer - as these teams play a split doubleheader following the third postponement at Coors Field this season.

After averaging 5.2 runs while opening 12-1, Atlanta has dropped four of five. Having scored nine runs while batting .195 over that stretch, the Braves (13-5) are coming off their third straight loss, 4-2 at Pittsburgh on Sunday.

"We're just not capitalizing on our opportunities offensively," said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team dropped to 0-5 when not homering. "We're not getting that big hit when we need it. We're not catching any breaks either, like a broken-bat hit or a pitch going to the backstop. It'll turn around, though."

To make things worse, Atlanta found out Monday it will be without Heyward for a while after the right fielder had an appendectomy. Heyward, hitting just .121 with two homers, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. Gonzalez said there's no set timetable for his return.

The Braves could get a boost from cleanup hitter Freddie Freeman, who is expected to be activated from the DL after going 5 for 10 with two doubles during a three-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Freeman was 7 for 17 with a homer and seven RBIs before suffering a strained right oblique April 6. Dan Uggla should also be available after sitting out Sunday due to a strained left calf.

The Braves and Colorado (13-5) rank among the major league leaders in homers, and the Rockies are near the top with a .482 slugging percentage and 104 runs.

Colorado had opened a franchise-best 8-0 at home and won eight straight overall before falling 5-4 to Arizona on Sunday. Troy Tulowitzki went 2 for 4 with his sixth homer, but the Rockies gave up three runs over the last two innings - including two in the ninth - with closer Rafael Betancourt unavailable after pitching the previous two days.

"This is a good team and we battle every single game," said Carlos Gonzalez, batting a team-high .364. "If you're going to lose your winning streak, it's better to do it the way we did today, playing good baseball. We just had one bad inning at the end."

Colorado could have a hard time regrouping versus Atlanta, which has won seven of eight and 12 of 15 in the series. The Braves are batting .327 and have scored 38 runs during a four-game winning streak in Denver.

Atlanta now gives the ball to Mike Minor (2-1, 0.95 ERA), who was scheduled to start Monday's series opener before it was postponed due to bad weather.

The left-hander, who has struck out 16 and walked one over his first three starts, gave up one run and five hits over six innings in a 1-0 loss to Kansas City on Wednesday.

Minor allowed a career-high eight runs over five innings at Colorado on May 5 before giving up one hit and striking out seven in seven innings of a 1-0 home win over the Rockies on Sept. 5.

The Rockies counter with Jeff Francis (1-1, 8.25), who's allowed 15 runs - 10 earned - 16 hits and six walks over his last two starts spanning six innings. The left-hander is 3-2 with a 6.49 ERA in five outings against the Braves, but he hasn't faced them since 2007.

Francis will need to be cautious with Justin Upton, who's gone 8 for 22 with two homers in their matchups. The slugging left fielder, who has nine home runs, is batting .341 with five homers and 16 RBIs over his last 25 games against the Rockies.

Julio Teheran (0-0, 7.31) gets the ball for the Braves in the nightcap. The right-hander has allowed at least four runs in all three starts this season and given up five homers in 16 innings, but the Braves have come away with a win each time.

Teheran will be opposed by Jon Garland (2-0, 3.32). The right-hander has notched three quality starts in as many outings, including Thursday against the Mets when he allowed two runs over seven innings of an 11-3 win at home.

"So far, he's been real good at pitching down and his sinker is even better than I thought it was," manager Walt Weiss said. "He knows what he's doing out there. He's got a plan."

Garland, 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA in five career starts at Coors Field, is 1-2 with a 7.25 ERA in four starts against the Braves. He's held Upton and Uggla to a combined six hits in 30 at-bats.

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