ATLANTA -- Ian Desmond's game-breaking third-inning triple and Charlie Blackmon's Braves-breaking two-run triple in the sixth -- key hits in the Rockies' 11-5 victory over the Braves at SunTrust Park on Friday night -- were efficient in leading the way for Colorado.
Both players had been struggling. Desmond stepped to the plate in a 3-for-32 rut. Blackmon was in a 7-for-35 rut with 10 strikeouts, including two earlier Friday. But their hits led the Rockies to their sixth victory in the last seven games and kept them breathing down the necks of the National League West-leading D-backs. The Rockies' run total was their highest since an 11-10 victory at Arizona on July 20.
"There are times when you see it to a point where you've gotta take a day off or a couple days off," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "We did it with Charlie yesterday and talked through a couple things. With 'Desi,' same thing, a couple days off over the last couple weeks, a couple different discussions.
"But you know eventually these guys will rise to the occasion when needed."
Even more, there was a no-big-deal feel to their hits.
Desmond pointed into the dugout but barely smiled after his line drive to the left-center gap off Braves starter Sean Newcomb (10-6). Blackmon, whose triple bounced past first base, simply loosened his shin guard and handed it to third-base coach Stu Cole, all while catching his breath after a headfirst slide. The runners ahead of those hits just walked to the dugout and touched Black's hand. There was little in the way of celebration.
The Rockies have never won the NL West and have never been to the postseason two straight years. But having gone last year, even for just one game, is the only history the Rockies have found worth drawing upon.
"Last year's experience definitely has prepared us," Blackmon said. "We've snuck in. We've been the Wild Card team. We've had to play good baseball to get to that point. We know what good baseball looks like, and we know what bad baseball is like, too.
"There are no easy wins, but I'm proud of the way our guys did it tonight."
The Rockies plan to win games behind guys who expect to do it again because they have done it before.
It's why they signed Desmond -- who added a two-run single off Kolby Allard in the eighth -- for five years and $70 million before last season and stuck with him during long struggles this year. It's why the Rockies signed Blackmon to a six-year extension worth at least $108 million and haven't hit the panic button, even though he is nowhere close to his NL batting champion form of last season. The Rockies are mixing a veteran lineup with young pitching.
"This time of year, you want to be playing good baseball," Desmond said. "And we are. We believe in what we can do and that's a good feeling at this point."
Speaking of that young pitching, second-year lefty Kyle Freeland (11-7) continued his stalwart behavior on the mound by holding the Braves to one run on three hits while striking out nine. Freeland has fanned 19 in 13 innings over his last two starts and the Rockies are 9-2 in his last 11 outings.
FREELAND TRYING TO UPDATE ROCKIES HISTORY
Freeland's hot streak could land him in a favorable place in the Rockies' record book. His most recent performance dropped his season ERA to 2.96. In the tortured history of Rockies pitching, the only full-season ERA better than Freeland for a pitcher who qualified for the league ERA title was the 2.88 mark of Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010.
In his last 12 starts, Freeland has a 2.20 ERA, with eight quality starts.
"I started to pitch well about four or five starts into the season, and I've just tried to hold that feeling, keep on going with that and see how long I can ride it out," Freeland said.
Giving up a run in the first inning is customary for the Rockies. Nick Markakis' one-out sacrifice fly for a 1-0 Braves lead drove the team's first-inning ERA to 7.67 on the year. But as a staff that has been solid much of the season has proven, that becomes less relevant if there is little or no scoring beyond the first.
Freeland made some big pitches. After walking Tyler Flowers to open the second, Freeland buzzed through the bottom of the Braves' order. After Ozzie Albies' infield hit with one out in the third -- with the Rockies leading, 3-1 -- he forced a Freddie Freeman double-play grounder.
"He executes his pitches pretty much every pitch," said shortstop Trevor Story, who also had three hits -- along with Blackmon, Desmond and DJ LeMahieu.
No runner reached scoring position for the rest of the time Freeland was in the game, and the Rockies built their lead.
HE SAID IT
"That's the first time I have gone first-to-home since high school. It's been a while and I spent quite a bit of energy right there. Looking back on it, it was worth it to be able to open up the gates a little bit." -- Freeland, who bunted for a single before scoring from first on Blackmon's triple
In his last start, on Aug. 2, Rockies righty Antonio Senzatela (4-3, 4.56 ERA) held the Cardinals to one run and five hits in six innings but shortly thereafter went to the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Senzatela returns to the rotation to face the Braves and righty Mike Foltynewicz (10-7, 2.86) at SunTrust Park on Saturday at 5:10 p.m. MT. Because of a conflict with a Denver Broncos preseason football game, the Rockies' game will be carried on KHOW AM 630 radio.