Braves slug four homers to salvage split in Colorado

Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies welcomed Rockies starter Ryan Feltner to the big leagues on his first pitch. And the Braves cruised from there.

Albies greeted Feltner, making his major-league debut, with an immediate homer. The Braves padded their lead with a five-run third, leading to a 9-2 victory Sunday in Colorado. They salvaged a split of the four-game series, winning the first and final contests.

The Braves finished their seven-game road trip with a 2-5 mark. While disappointing, they at least didn’t spiral after getting swept in Los Angeles. Managing a split in Colorado, where the Rockies are 45-24, was an acceptable result.

“We needed a win today,” manager Brian Snitker said. “And we needed an offensive game, which we got. (Starter) Charlie (Morton) was just really, really good. That was a big win for us.”

Albies’ homer was his third in as many games. The homer-streak comes on the heels of a two-game absence after Albies fouled a pitch off his left knee last week.

The Braves had played five straight one-run games entering the day, but their explosive third inning finally let them play a game with a bigger margin for error. They loaded the bases against Feltner with one out and scored their second run on third baseman Austin Riley’s sacrifice fly.

Credit: David Zalubowski

Credit: David Zalubowski

Slugger Adam Duvall smashed a three-run homer with two outs in the frame, extending the lead to 5-0. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud followed with a solo shot — his second consecutive game with a home run — that ended Feltner’s debut.

Duvall passed former teammate and Marlins slugger Jesus Aguilar for the National League lead in RBIs with 94 (Aguilar had 93). Duvall has 31 home runs, two shy of tying his career high, and should collect his second 100-RBI season. Twenty-one of the 31 homers have come with someone on base.

“Awesome,” Snitker said of Duvall taking the NL RBI lead. “I am so glad ... we got him back. He’s a different guy when you have runners on, that’s for darn sure. I think his average and the whole thing is something else with runners in scoring position, and obviously it has to be when you’re racking up RBIs like that. I could never be too happy for a guy like that. The teammate, the person. Man, there’s something wrong with you if you can’t root for Adam Duvall.”

Riley capped the Braves’ breakout day with a two-run shot in the seventh, giving him three RBIs Sunday. The third baseman is hitting .305 with 29 homers and 87 RBIs with 26 games remaining.

“I don’t know how he hasn’t (put himself in the MVP conversation),” Morton said. “He’s just been so consistent all year on both sides of the ball. Great guy, great teammate. I don’t know how he wouldn’t be (an MVP candidate).”

Over the four-game series at Coors Field, the Braves had 16 extra-base hits, including nine home runs. Albies led the way with three homers while Duvall and d’Arnaud each provided two.

While Feltner made his first start, Morton made his 286th. The Braves’ starter avoided the dangers of Coors Field, quieting the Rockies and preventing any comeback bid. He allowed two runs on two hits over seven innings. Given the bullpen’s workload lately, especially after the Braves’ starter logged just three innings in two of the previous three contests, Morton’s effort came at a valuable time.

“It’s not about yourself, it’s about what’s best for the team,” Morton said. “That’s the goal. Those guys (the bullpen) have been grinding. Every year now, starters are going fewer innings and bullpens are having to wear it. It’s nice to feel like I did my part in that regard.”

Braves 9, Rockies 2 (box score)

Richard Rodriguez pitched the eighth and Edgar Santana handled the ninth. The bullpen, which logged 15-1/3 innings in the Colorado series, will also get rest during Monday’s off-day.

Around the National League East, the Phillies defeated the Marlins in extra innings while the Mets posted 13 runs in a win over the Nationals. The Braves maintain a two-game lead on the Phillies and a 3-1/2 game cushion on the Mets.

“We have a winning record, we’ve played great baseball since the trade deadline,” d’Arnaud said, adding he likes where the Braves stand. “Now we just have to keep the momentum going from (Sunday) and carry it over to Tuesday.”

The Braves return home and enjoy an off-day Monday before opening an important nine-game homestand Tuesday. They’ll host the Nationals, Marlins and Rockies, who are an abysmal road team. It’s an opportunity for the Braves to rebound from their recent disappointing stretch.