Denver -- Walks and hit batters frequently come back to bite a pitcher in the butt at Coors Field, as the Braves and Mike Gonzalez were reminded Thursday night.
Pinch-hitter Garrett Atkins' two-run, two-out double on Gonzalez in the eighth inning lifted the Colorado Rockies to a 7-6 win in the opener of a four-game series against the Braves.
"I just didn't get it done," said Gonzalez (3-2), who walked Ian Stewart and hit Chris Iannetta with a pitch before Atkins made him pay with a double to the left-field corner for a 7-5 lead.
"That's obviously the worst thing that can happen," Gonzalez said of the walk and hit batter. "I'd rather give up two solo homer runs back-to-back than put guys on. And it takes the wind out of your defense, too."
The Rockies scored four runs in five innings against Braves phenom Tommy Hanson and improved their record to 26-7 since June 4, best in the majors in that span.
Jeff Francoeur had his first three-double game and drove in two runs for the Braves, who snapped a modest two-game win streak and slipped back to three games under .500 (41-44) and five behind National League East leader Philadelphia.
The Braves had to settle for a pinch-hit appearance from Chipper Jones, who's missed three starts with a strained groin, and they played much of the game without shortstop Yunel Escobar.
Escobar left with a lower-back strain before the bottom of the fourth, and manager Bobby Cox said he didn't know if he'd be able to play Friday.
"We actually pitched a pretty good game," Cox said. "Gonzalez hung a little breaking ball to Atkins, and he hit it. Hanson was fine, and we hit the ball fine."
Hanson (six hits, two walks, two strikeouts) got no decision in his first game at Coors Field, his record staying at 4-0 and his ERA climbing from 2.25 to 2.85 through seven starts.
The big rookie gave up more extra-base hits (four) in five innings against the Rockies than he had given up in his previous four starts combined.
"I really didn't know what to expect" of the conditions, said Hanson, who had been 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his past five starts. "My slider wasn't doing anything. That being one of my best pitches, it didn't help at all.
"I've never experienced that before. [The slider] was just spinning."
Still, he didn't blame thin air for his performance. He said if he'd located his pitches better early in counts, it could have been a different game.
"I just wasn't getting ahead of hitters, and those were the batters that hurt me," said Hanson, who surrendered a two-homer homer by Stewart in the second inning and a two-run triple by Iannetta in the fourth.
"Our offense put up some runs and kept the game close," he said. "I just didn't make pitches when I needed to."
Neither did Peter Moylan (blown save) or Gonzalez, two cornerstones in a bullpen that's been a strength for most of the season.
"Obviously the ball doesn't sink as much here, and the breaking ball doesn't move as much," said Moylan, who gave up a run in the seventh on two hits, including Clint Barmes' RBI double. "It makes it harder to get guys out."
Gonzalez said the conditions had nothing to do with his ragged performance, the third time he's given up multiple runs in his past seven appearances.
He has a 10.29 ERA and .308 opponents' average in his past eight games, yielding eight hits, eight runs and four walks in seven innings during those outings.
"I'm more frustrated because we're in these ballgames right now," Gonzalez said. "I just can't allow that to happen.... It's just kind of mind-boggling to me."
Francoeur's first two doubles and two RBIs helped the Braves build a 4-2 lead, with two runs in the second and two in the fourth.
But Iannetta's two-run triple in the bottom of the fourth tied the score.
Back and forth it went, as games so often do at the Rockies' mile-high hitters' haven, with its spacious outfield so conducive to extra-base hits.
In the sixth, 29-year-old Braves rookie Brooks Conrad singled to drive in Francoeur for a 5-4 lead.
But again the Rockies answered, scoring a run in the seventh against Moylan. Before Barmes' double, Dexter Fowler hit a one-out single off the glove of Conrad at second base. It was originally ruled an error, but changed to a hit.
(Conrad was at second while Martin Prado was filling in for Jones at third.)
Fowler stole second and scored on Barmes' double, before lefty Eric O'Flaherty replaced Moylan and got two tough outs, striking out Todd Helton and inducing a groundout by cleanup hitter Brad Hawpe.
The Braves had an opportunity to reclaim the lead in the eighth after Francoeur led off with his third double. Conrad popped out on a bunt before Jones was intentionally walked.
With Gregor Blanco pinch-running for Jones, the Braves had two runners on with one out, and their hottest hitters coming to bat, Nate McLouth and Martin Prado.
But the Rockies countered with lefty Alan Embree, who struck out McLouth, and Juan Rincon, who got Prado on a groundout to strand two and keep the score tied.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.