Rockies stall Atlanta’s post-season guarantee
ATLANTA ” The Atlanta Braves kept their champagne on ice.
Instead, this was a night for a more poignant, personal celebration.
Todd Greene hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning and the Colorado Rockies rallied for a 6-5 victory over the Braves today, preventing Atlanta from clinching its 14th straight division title.
While most of the Turner Field crowd groaned when Greene homered, a small group of family and friends cheered ” including the catcher’s father, Charles Greene, who’s fought a long battle against lung and bladder cancer.
“My dad’s having some trouble, but he was able to be here,” said Todd Greene, a native of Augusta, Ga., who lives in suburban Atlanta during the offseason. “The last time he saw me play (in person) was when we were here last year.”
About two hours after pinch-hitter Brian Jordan struck out to end the game, the Braves’ magic number for winning the NL East dropped to one when second-place Philadelphia lost to the New York Mets 6-5.
Colorado came all the way back from a four-run deficit, taking advantage of the Braves’ shaky bullpen. Chris Reitsma (3-6) took over with one out in the eighth and didn’t retire anyone.
Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins hit back-to-back singles before Greene drove a 1-2 pitch into the center-field seats, a 406-foot shot for his seventh homer and the Rockies’ first lead of the night.
“With all my family and friends here, yes, it was the biggest hit I’ve ever gotten,” Greene said.
Reitsma threw a changeup where he wanted ” low and over the inside corner ” then watched in disbelief as the ball sailed out of park.
“It was 3 inches off the ground,” Reitsma said. “What can you do? I don’t know if he was looking for it. Whatever. You’ve got to tip your hat to a guy in that situation. It’s not fun to do, but that’s why they call it the big leagues. It was a good pitch in a good location.”
Ryan Speier (2-1) pitched a scoreless seventh for the win. Brian Fuentes worked the ninth for his 31st save, ending the game by striking out Jordan with a man on third.
The Braves came into the night hoping to clinch the NL East championship, needing a win over the Rockies coupled with a loss by the Phillies. Space had already been cleared on the crowded facade in left field, where the team displays pennants for each of its playoff seasons.
But there was nothing to watch on the scoreboard much of the night. The Phillies’ game against the New York Mets, set to begin a half-hour earlier than the one in Atlanta, was delayed for more than 2 1/2 hours by rain in Philadelphia.
The Phillies and Mets finally began about the time the Rockies were coming to bat in the seventh, ruining any chance of a celebration at Turner Field. Colorado’s comeback made it a moot point, though the Braves are assured of at least a tie for first in the East.
“I’m kind of glad,” said Adam LaRoche, who homered for the Braves. “If we had won, we would have come in here and watched television for two hours to see if the Phillies won. I’m not saying I would have complained. Obviously, that would have been better than this. But it will all work out.”
Jeff Francoeur also homered for the Braves, and Johnny Estrada’s two-run double off rookie starter Mike Esposito pushed Atlanta to a seemingly comfortable 5-1 lead in the fifth.
Colorado began its comeback in the sixth, though a baserunning blunder messed up a potentially huge inning. The Rockies started with five straight hits, including Todd Helton’s RBI double and Garrett Atkins’ run-scoring single.
On Helton’s hit, Luis Gonzalez came streaking around third, intent on scoring another run. But coach Mike Gallego threw up the signal to stop, Gonzalez fell down, got caught between bases, tried to score and was thrown out easily by Rafael Furcal’s relay.
Blaine Boyer replaced starter Horacio Ramirez and gave up two more hits, putting the potential tying run on base. But the rookie escaped the jam by striking out Greene and Dustan Mohr.
In the next inning, Boyer threw his first pitch in the dirt and appeared to be in pain. He rubbed at his right biceps when trainer Jeff Porter came to the mound, and manager Bobby Cox signaled for a new pitcher.
Boyer has been bothered by a sore shoulder, and Cox mentioned the biceps as being the source of the pain. The pitcher said simply: “It’s just my arm.”
The team said Boyer was day to day, but it’s too early to tell how long he might be out.
Ramirez gave up eight hits and three runs in 5 1-3 innings. Esposito has yet to win in two big league starts, giving up nine hits and all five Atlanta runs in 4 1-3 innings.
Colorado had 15 hits. … Francoeur had the first two-walk game of his young career ” a sign of growing patience for a hitter who went 131 plate appearances before drawing his first walk in the majors. … Helton extended his hitting streak to 13 games. … Greene’s homer ruined Ramirez’s chance to tie his career high of 12 wins. … Atkins had three hits and two RBIs.
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