DENVER — The Braves had seven runs on seven hits including an Andrelton Simmons grand slam before making their second out Tuesday night. But nearly four hours later, Craig Kimbrel was closing the game in a save situation.
It was that kind of night at Coors Field, like a game straight out of the late-90s at the notorious hitters’ haven.
Braves starter Mike Minor endured another mile-high nightmare but the Braves won 13-10 to clinch at least a split of the four-game series with two games to go. Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth for his 18th save.
Braves left fielder Justin Upton left the game with a strained left hamstring in the first inning and was listed as day-to-day.
The Braves scored more runs in the first inning than they scored in any entire game during a 25-game stretch from April 20 to May 18, and Freddie Freeman and surging Evan Gattis added solo homers in the fourth inning when the Braves reached double-digit runs for just the second time all season, taking a 10-5 lead.
But the way balls were flying and several pitchers were struggling with the strike zone, it seemed no lead would be large enough for breathing easy. Even after the Braves pushed the lead to 13-8 in the sixth, the Rockies scored a run in the seventh and loaded the bases with one out in the eighth.
Rookie Shae Simmons entered and limited the damage to a Justin Morneau sacrifice fly that cut the lead to 13-10.
It was a night straight out of the late ‘90s at Coors Field, with starting pitchers Minor and Juan Nicasio getting pounded and run through a spin cycle a few times apiece while giving up a combined 22 hits, 18 runs and four homers.
Minor gave up 11 hits and eight runs and left without recording an out in the fifth, matching the career-high eight runs he allowed in a 2012 start at Coors.
The Rockies scored three runs in the first inning, two in the third, one in the fourth and two more in the fifth as Minor was unable to get into any rhythm despite the huge run support.
Gattis was 3-for-4 with a walk, four runs and two RBIs and has hit .395 (17-for-43) with five homers and 13 RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak. Previously slumping Chris Johnson has consecutive three-hit games the past two nights to raise his career average to .459 (17-for-37) in 10 games at Coors Field.
Freeman has 11 homers and 26 RBIs in 27 games against the Rockies including five homers in 12 games at Coors Field.
Minor, who left after giving up a triple and an RBI single to start the fifth inning, was charged with 11 hits, eight runs and three walks. David Hale (2-0) replaced him and got the win after giving up two hits and one run in 2 1/3 innings.
Minor has allowed eight runs twice in 93 career starts, both times at Coors Field. He got no decision and remains 1-0 despite an 11.40 ERA in three starts at the downtown Denver ballpark, where he has given up 26 hits and 19 runs in 15 innings.
The left-hander allowed 10 hits, eight runs and two homers and four walks in five innings of his first start at Coors on May 5, 2012, which the Braves also won (he got no decision). He’s been whacked for double-digit hits totals just three times in his career — twice at Coors and last month against the Cardinals.
Minor had a 1.87 ERA in five starts since giving up 11 hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings of that May 7 loss to the Cardinals in his second start after beginning the season on the disabled list recovering from shoulder tendinitis. He allowed more runs in four innings Tuesday than he had in 33 2/3 innings combined over his past five starts (seven).
The first eight batters in the first inning produced seven hits for the Braves, and the only one who didn’t reach base in that stretch was Freeman, who had an RBI groundout.
Jason Heyward started game with a double and B.J. Upton followed with a triple off the right-field wall. One out later, Justin Upton lined a single off Nicasio’s glove and apparently hurt his leg running to first on the play. He finished the inning but was replaced by Jordan Schafer in the bottom of the first.
Johnson followed with single to load the bases before Tommy La Stella singled in a run. The bases were still loaded, but not for long: Simmons hit the first grand slam of his career to give the Braves a 7-0 lead.
Dan Uggla’s April 14 grand slam at Philadelphia was the only other slam this season for the Braves, who were tied with the Dodgers with a majors-worst .132 average (5-for-38) with bases loaded before Tuesday.
Nicasio gave up 11 hits and 10 runs in just 3 2/3 innings. He’s the same pitcher who held the Braves to two hits and four walks in six scoreless innings on May 24 in a 3-1 Rockies win at Turner Field. Minor also started that game.
The Braves sent 10 batters to the plate in the first and the Rockies batted around in their half of the inning before Minor struck out Nicasio with the bases loaded. The first inning lasted almost 45 minutes and 67 pitches, only 35 of which were strikes.