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Hoffman struggles with command, illness

Righty gives up four home runs in 4 1/3 innings vs. Braves
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Jeff Hoffman woke up Thursday not feeling good, but didn't think much of it.

But he felt way worse after yielding four solo homers and leaving after 4 1/3 innings of a 10-4 loss to the Braves at Coors Field. The Rockies dropped into a tie with the D-backs for the top National League Wild Card spot.

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DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Jeff Hoffman woke up Thursday not feeling good, but didn't think much of it.

But he felt way worse after yielding four solo homers and leaving after 4 1/3 innings of a 10-4 loss to the Braves at Coors Field. The Rockies dropped into a tie with the D-backs for the top National League Wild Card spot.

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"I felt a little bit under the weather this morning coming into today," Hoffman said. "Didn't feel like it was a big deal, so I went out there and thought I had enough to get the job done, but left a few pitches up and they hit 'em."

Hoffman managed just a 92.1-mph average four-seam fastball velocity -- well below his 94.5-mph season average. In fact, in his last start, when he gave up four runs -- including a Giancarlo Stanton three-run homer -- in five innings, his velocity was 93.4 mph.

Ender Inciarte homered twice, and Tyler Flowers and Freddie Freeman also went deep for the Braves. Only Freeman's home run, which chased Hoffman in the fifth, came on a curveball. Between innings, Hoffman said the Rockies kept checking to make sure he felt well enough to pitch.

"He didn't have his best stuff today," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "The ball was up in the strike zone. The Braves took advantage of the ball up, for sure -- Inciarte, Flowers, Freeman.

"He just couldn't get the breaking ball in good spots consistently. He threw a couple good ones. A couple of them were left up, obviously. The fastball didn't have normal life to it. That happens."

Seeing Hoffman's lack of fastball command, catcher Jonathan Lucroy said he tried calling the curve, the slider, "anything else," but to no avail.

The good pitching news, however, came in the eighth and ninth, when righty Antonio Senzatela -- who is being used in a relief role but has had some success in the rotation -- threw a clean eighth and ninth inning, with two strikeouts and strikes on 18 of his 25 pitches.

"[Senzatela has] done a nice job in all phases," Black said. "We gave him a little blow there six or seven weeks ago, he gave us a nice spot start in Cleveland and has had a couple really good outings out of the bullpen. We're going to use him as we move forward.

"It's not out of the question that [Senzatela will] start again. I like where his stuff is. It seems to have bounced back with velocity and secondary pitches."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Jeff Hoffman