DENVER – After taking a two-hit shutout to the eighth inning against the Rockies on Saturday in Atlanta, Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz carried a one-hit shutout into the sixth against same team Thursday at Coors Field.
In both cases, the next three batters reached base, and both times all ended up scoring. Difference being, this time they scored while Foltynewicz was still in the game and on one swing of Carlos Gonzalez’s bat.
Gonzalez’s mammoth three-run homer with none out in the sixth snapped a scoreless tie and sent the Rockies to a 7-3 win to open a four-game series. It was Colorado’s 11th win in 13 games against the Braves going back to June 2014, including three wins in four games over the past seven days.
Foltynewicz (3-4) gave up four hits, three runs and a career-high five walks with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
“Can’t fall behind against one of the best fastball hitters in the game, and especially can’t pitch around him at that time because bases (would then be) loaded,” said Foltynewicz, who threw a season-high 112 pitches including 50 balls. “Just got to tip your cap. He was waiting for the inside fastball and he turned on it. Kind of like the last start, you battle and battle and you get late in the game and it unfolds like that. It’s just tough for me.”
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Foltynewicz was charged with three runs without recording an out in the eighth inning Saturday, but two of those runs scored after he left the game. On Thursday, Gonzalez brought them all in with a 459-foot homer on a 97-mph fastball with the count 1-1, after Charlie Blackmon drew a leadoff walk and DJ LeMahieu singled.
“His command wasn’t great but he was competing,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said of Foltynewicz. “Kept us in the ballgame until the one pitch, just didn’t get it in enough. Cost him three runs.”
The Rockies led 4-1 Thursday before widening the lead with three more runs (one earned) against rookie Mauricio Cabrera in an eventful eighth inning. Shortstop Erick Aybar was charged with an error for interfering with a base runner and catcher A.J. Pierzynski was ejected by home-plate umpire Mike Winters for kicking the ball after that play.
Pierzynski’s RBI double in the seventh had gotten the Braves on the board and cut the lead to 3-1, but the Rockies pushed it back to three runs on a towering pinch-hit homer by Mark Reynolds in the bottom of the seventh, a blast to center field off left-hander Hunter Cervenka that traveled an estimated 484 feet.
But it was the Gonzalez homer, his 20th of the season, that altered the course of the game permanently. He’s hit .333 with 10 doubles, eight homers and 28 RBIs in his past 32 games against the Braves.
“He’s been a special player for a long time,” Snitker said. “I remember coming in here when I was third-base coach and that guy’s scary. Both sides of the ball. I mean, he’s a really talented player. You make a mistake to him, he’s going to make you pay. You’ve got to make pitches, keep the ball down, change speeds. That fastball just came back over the plate, and he did what he’s supposed to do.”
Pierzynski replacement Anthony Recker had an RBI single in the ninth, and the Braves final run scored on an Aybar groundout. The Braves were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position before the ninth inning, when Ender Inciarte and Recker collected hits in those situations after an Adonis Garcia double.
Rockies starter Chad Bettis (8-6) allowed four hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings, with three walks. The Braves failed to score after Markakis’ leadoff single in the second and Gordon Beckham’s leadoff double in the fourth.
They had two on with one out in the fourth before Garcia lined out to right field and Ender Inciarte struck out.
Markakis’ streak of 32 consecutive plate appearances without a swing and miss ended with a ninth-inning strikeout. It had been the longest such active streak in the majors.
Freddie Freeman went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and is 2-for-27 with one RBI and 15 strikeouts in his past seven games. In his past nine games against the Rockies, he’s 1-for-33 with no RBIs and 14 strikeouts.