Georgia Tech product and Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon celebrated College Football Night at SunTrust Park by delivering the go-ahead shot against the Braves.
After Atlanta had rallied from down 4-2 in the sixth, Blackmon took Arodys Vizcaino deep in the ninth, breaking a 4-4 tie and sending the Braves to a 7-6 loss on Saturday. They’ve lost five of their last eight games.
Rockies second baseman D.J. LeMahieu collected his first multi-homer game, and the second one proved vital. LeMahieu followed Blackmon’s blast with a solo shot of his own - which became the difference after Matt Adams’ pinch-hit two-run homer off Greg Holland pulled the Braves to within a run.
Braves starter Sean Newcomb will be relieved he won’t see the Rockies again in 2017. After taking him deep three times 11 days ago in Denver, the Rockies beat up Newcomb in the fifth inning.
“You could tell they were a little more comfortable in there,” Newcomb said. “... They definitely were comfortable in the box against me.”
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The 23-year-old was fresh off five shutout innings against Cincinnati in his last start, his first completed appearance without allowing a run. But Braves manager Brian Snitker pulled Newcomb after 4 2/3 innings, ending a rough start that easily could’ve spiraled worse.
“Off target a little bit,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It never looks crazy wild, but he’s just missing and not enough strikes, pretty much. He’s just got to go back and, stuff’s good. You see a good breaking ball here and there, fastball. But it’s just too many deep counts and a lot of pitches the first couple innings.”
Newcomb faced seven Rockies in the fifth, allowing four base runners and three runs. He has a 5.76 ERA over his last 10 starts.
“They were fouling a lot of stuff off,” Newcomb said. “In two-strike counts I felt like. They did a good job fighting off good pitches and staying alive, making something out of it.”
One bright spot for the Braves: Entering Saturday, the Albies-Swanson combination was hitting .366 with a .493 on-base percentage and 13 runs scored over the last eight games. The two headed the Braves’ first rally.
With two down in the sixth, Albies doubled home Nick Markakis to cut the deficit to 4-3. Swanson singled Albies home to tie it.vAlbies said he and Swanson feed off and improve one another.
LeMahieu knotted the game at two with a homer to right field as the second batter in the fifth. He’s hitting .354 since June 15, best in the National League. His homer was the sixth of Newcomb’s 10 that’ve come at SunTrust Park.
Newcomb retired Nolan Arenado with a behind-the-back snag for the second out in the fifth, then his command disappeared.
Newcomb proceeded to walk Mark Reynolds, allowed a single to Gerardo Parra, then Trevor Story’s double into the center field gap brought both home to end Newcomb’s night – and ultimately, the Braves’ chance to win their second in a row over one of the wild card holders.
Colorado outfielder Pat Valaika opened the scoring with a RBI-single in the second. Arenado and Reynolds had one-out singles in the third, but Newcomb got out of it. He retired the side in order in the fourth, his only time doing so on Saturday.
The Braves left runs on the board in the second. Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis led off the inning with singles, but Tyler Flowers hit into a double play and Ozzie Albies grounded out.
Dansby Swanson singled to open the third. After a Newcomb bunt, Ender Inciarte singled. Brandon Phillips brought Swanson home to tie the game at 1-1, and Freddie Freeman’s sacrifice fly gave Atlanta its only lead.
Albies tripled into the right-center gap with two outs in the fourth, but Rockies starter Kyle Freeland intentionally walked Swanson to face Newcomb, who struck out.
With the three-bagger, Albies became the first Brave to gather four triples in his first 23 games since Chet Ross in 1939-1940.
“As soon as it split the gap, I said I’m going three, no matter what,” Albies said.
Albies had two hits and walked twice. He scored on Adams’ home run.
“He’s really working,” Snitker said of Albies. “He’s working his tail off. He’s playing really good and it’s happening for him.”
In relief of Newcomb, Matt Wisler, Jose Ramirez and Dan Winkler combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings with two hits and five strikeouts before Vizcaino’s blunders.
“It just happened so fast,” Snitker said of Vizcaino giving up two home runs. “You know, he’s been really, really good. He’s just been lights out. And it didn’t happen tonight. We’ll give him a chance tomorrow. He didn’t throw a lot of pitches and he should be ready to go tomorrow and save the game.”
The Braves and Rockies will play for the weekend and season series on Sunday, with Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz facing the team that tagged him for eight runs over 3 1/3 innings in Denver.