When it appeared that Tim Hudson finally would have a Rocky Mountain high in the form of his 200th career win, the biggest hero of the Braves’ early season, Justin Upton, made a costly mistake.
Upton got turned around in left field on Dexter Fowler’s two-out fly ball to the wall in the ninth inning Wednesday, turning it into a two-run double that brought in the tying runs. The Rockies defeated the Braves 6-5 on Yorvit Torrealba’s RBI single to left field in the 12th inning.
“I misread it,” Upton said. “It was hit a lot harder than I thought it was. I had to retreat, and I just never got back to where I could catch it. … We had that game won. That misread cost us. That’s a ball I should catch.”
Upton also made an off-target throw to the plate on the game-ending play that scored Wilin Rosario, who led off the 12th with a double.
With the ninth-inning mistake, Hudson’s potential win was gone — he remained 0-2 in six starts at Coors Field — and Craig Kimbrel had his first blown save in nine chances. The Rockies averted a sweep, and the Braves slipped to 3-4 on a 10-game trip that finishes with a three-game series in Detroit starting Friday.
“Unfortunately that’s part of the game,” Hudson said. “That’s why you play 27 outs. We played a good ballgame, just a tough play right there with Justin, turned him around a little bit. You’ve got to give Dexter credit, man. He put the charge in it. It was not an easy play by any means.”
A failed squeeze attempt by the Braves’ Ramiro Pena in the ninth ended up being crucial. Jordan Schafer walked, went to second on a balk and stole third before Pena missed on a bunt and left Schafer out to dry.
“Tried to get a three-run lead, and I thought we had the right combination of guys doing it,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Schafer running and Pena at the plate. We just couldn’t execute it.”
The Rockies had an opportunity in the 11th after Eric Young’s one-out triple, but first baseman Freddie Freeman fielded Fowler’s grounder and made a strong throw to the plate to get Young. The Braves couldn’t turn them away again in the 12th, after Rosario’s leadoff double off Luis Ayala and an intentional walk to Michael Cuddyer.
Kimbrel was shaky in the ninth, allowing two runs and three hits including a one-out double by No. 8 hitter Jonathan Herrera. Troy Tulowitzki followed with a pinch-hit single before Kimbrel struck out Young.
Up next was Fowler, an Atlanta native.
“I didn’t elevate enough (to Herrera) and gave up an 0-2 hit,” Kimbrel said. “Any pitcher is going to be disappointed giving up an 0-2 hit at any point in the game. That was kind of like the momentum-builder for them, and Tulo came up and hit a good curveball.
“They put themselves in a good situation. With Fowler coming up, I tried to go in on him and just didn’t get in enough, and he was able to put the barrel to it.”
Upton was playing deep but got a bad jump, backpedaled and turned before an awkward attempt to catch the ball. It missed his glove and two runs scored. The Rockies had new life and capitalized for only their fourth win in 18 games against the Braves since the beginning of 2011.
Hudson allowed back-to-back solo homers in the second inning, then settled in and worked six solid innings (three runs, six hits, two walks) to put himself in position for the win in his second attempt at his 200th. He gave up six runs in four innings of a loss at Pittsburgh on Friday to begin a three-game Braves losing streak.
They got back on track Tuesday by hitting six homers in a doubleheader sweep of the Rockies in sub-freezing temperatures. And after falling behind early Wednesday, the Braves took a lead with a three-run fourth inning accomplished with nary a home run, a rarity for these slug-happy Braves in the early part of the season.
Their five hits in the fourth inning included Freeman’s RBI double to the right-field corner and run-scoring singles by Juan Francisco and Hudson, who, at 37, remains one of the better-hitting pitchers in the majors.
Chris Nelson hit a two-out triple off the right-field wall and scored the tying run in the bottom of the fourth.
Dan Uggla and Schafer had consecutive RBI singles in the sixth to put the Braves back ahead 5-3, and relievers Luis Avilan and Eric O’Flaherty pitched a scoreless inning apiece.