ATLANTA -- Recognizing their play over the next couple of weeks could determine whether they are buyers or sellers at the Trade Deadline, the Rockies provided an efficient Jorge De La Rosa with sufficient support and opened the season's second half with Friday night's 11-2 win over the Braves at Turner Field.
Though the Rockies have won just eight of their past 20 games and sit seven games below .500 (41-48), team management has contended it may opt not to sell veterans like Carlos González, who backed De La Rosa with three hits, including a first-inning RBI single off Braves starter Lucas Harrell. Colorado put an exclamation point on the victory when Ryan Raburn recorded a pinch-hit ninth-inning grand slam off Dario Álvarez after Arodys Vizcaínoexited with an apparent right oblique strain.
"Every game from now on is important, even more important than the ones we played in the first half," Gonzalez said. "We have a shot. We have a good group. We said that in Spring Training. We've been through tough times. Hopefully, we're staying positive, and I think great things are ahead of us."
While De La Rosa surrendered just two runs over six-plus innings, Harrell was tagged for seven runs -- five earned -- over 3 2/3 frames. Charlie Blackmon sparked Colorado's four-run third inning with a leadoff double and DJ LeMahieu added a two-out RBI triple during a two-run fourth. The Braves, who entered the second half hoping to avoid a 100-loss season, did not score until tallying a run in both the fifth and sixth innings.
"[Harrell] was just off tonight," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "That happens. When you pitch so well, you expect him to go out and last seven innings against this club. It's a good-hitting club, but he's faced good hitting clubs before. It just wasn't his night."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
From anger to celebration: De La Rosa was visibly irked when A.J. Pierzynski and Ender Inciarte dribbled singles through the infield with one out in the second. But De La Rosa enticed Erick Aybar to tap a 1-2 split-finger pitch to shortstop Trevor Story to begin a double play and preserve a 1-0 lead. De La Rosa, whose resourcefulness kept the Braves off the board until the Rockies' offense could heat up, is 4-2 with a 2.68 ERA in his last six starts after a brief exile to the bullpen.
"Ever since he came back from the bullpen, he's been himself, pitched really well, put us in position to win games," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. More >
Late opportunities squandered: Though they faced a 7-0 deficit through four innings, the Braves had chances to make things interesting. But after Jeff Francoeur's RBI single left two on with none out in the sixth, De La Rosa retired the next three batters he faced. Atlanta put two on with none out in the seventh before Boone Logan replaced Adam Ottavino and extinguished that threat by getting Freddie Freeman to ground into a double play on one pitch.
"We were a hit away from getting back in it," Snitker said. "They always are. It was just a couple of the fielding plays that led to two or three runs that kind of hurt more than anything, and the grand slam in the ninth didn't help either."
It's an All-Star arm, too: Gonzalez's power bat earned him a third career Midsummer Classic trip this week, but his arm is also formidable. The Braves appeared to have a rally in the fifth, on Brandon Snyder's RBI double -- his sixth extra-base hit in 20 at-bats this season. But when Snyder rumbled plateward on Adonis García's single, Gonzalez threw to the plate on the fly from right field and catcher Nick Hundley made the easy tag. According to Statcast™, Gonzalez's throw sailed 233 feet and was clocked at 97 mph.
Magic fades: Though he had two good starts after he was unexpectedly placed in Atlanta's depleted rotation before the break, Harrell started the second half by providing the reminder he's a short-term fix. The veteran right-hander committed a costly throwing error that led to two unearned runs in the third inning and then surrendered a pair of extra-base hits before ending his night by allowing Nolan Arenado's RBI single in the fourth.
"I didn't get ahead," Harrell said. "When you're 2-0 and 2-1 on everybody, they know fastball is coming. I wasn't throwing my offspeed pitches for strikes, and I fell behind. They are a good hitting team, and you can't fall behind those guys. It's just one of those things I need to work on and be more aggressive."
"It's only one game. We've got a chance to win a series tomorrow. But today was definitely a good start."-- Arenado, who went 2-for-3 with two walks and scored twice, on the Rockies' attempt to pull out of their first-half hole
"It's a tough thing because those things are hard to come back from." -- Snitker, on the oblique strain that will likely force Vizcaino to the disabled list
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Friday was the 1,000th Major League game for Gonzalez -- 915th with the Rockies after breaking in with the Athletics in 2008. His games played rank 10th on the list of active players from Venezuela.
The Braves were charged with five wild pitches -- their highest total since July 24, 2002. The Atlanta record of six was set when knuckleballer Phil Niekro pitched a complete game against the Astros on Aug. 4, 1979.
Weiss said he wanted to use Ottavino in higher-pressure situations, and Friday was an example of his plan. Still not wanting to lean too hard on a pitcher who missed 14 months because of Tommy John surgery, Weiss had Ottavino face right-handed hitters Gordon Beckham, who walked, and Adonis Garcia, who grounded into a force, before going to Logan for the double play.
"It's a fine line between putting too much on him this soon but also using him to help us win games," Weiss said. "He's there. He's at that point, but we still wanted to be careful. And having Boone has really been a luxury. He gets lefties out as well as anybody." More >
Rockies: Right-hander Chad Bettis (7-6, 5.65 ERA) is 3-1 in his last five starts but with a 5.79 ERA. The Rockies have given him 31 runs of support in those games. Bettis hopes to regain his form, although he wouldn't mind that the scoring keeps up, when he faces the Braves at Turner Field at 5:10 p.m. MT on Saturday.
Braves: Coming off a career-high 10-strikeout performance he completed against the White Sox on Sunday, Mike Foltynewicz will return to the mound for Saturday's game against the Rockies. The Braves hope Foltynewicz spends the season's second half providing further indication he has the potential to be a front-line starter.
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