McCarthy sharp in bitter cold as Braves handle Rockies

The Braves endured a 61-minute snow delay before the first pitch and temperatures well below 30 degrees throughout the game, but they had the right pitcher on the mound for such an occasion in Brandon McCarthy.

McCarthy, who went to high school in nearby Colorado Springs and also attended a junior college in Colorado, pitched six strong innings and chipped in with a two-run double for the Braves in an 8-3 win Friday to spoil the Rockies’ home opener at Coors Field.

“The cold, it’s not something I’m scared of, it’s something I almost get excited for,” said McCarthy, who limited the Rockes to five hits, three runs and one walk and improved to 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA after two starts in his first season with the Braves.

“I’m very out of my element in heat and humidity, but in the cold it’s just something where I know it sucks for hitters and that once I get loose it really isn’t that big of a deal for pitchers.”

The Braves have played three of the coldest five games in Coors Field history and won all of them. The first-pitch temperature was 27 on Friday, the second-coldest game at the ballpark.

After the Braves staked him to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, McCarthy gave up a run in the bottom of the first on a leadoff walk and Carlos Gonzalez triple, then gave up a pair of solo homers in the fourth to Gonzalez and Trevor Story. But that was all they got against the 6-foot-8 right-hander, who struck out the last three batters he faced following Nolan Arenado’s leadoff double in the sixth inning.

“He got going and got better as he went, too,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “His stuff was sharper, and his breaking ball was really good. It was huge for us.”

McCarthy was the first Braves starter to make it through six innings this season and did it efficiently, throwing 60 strikes in 88 pitches. He credited veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki, who returned to the Braves’ lineup Friday after missing four games with a bruised right hand from being hit by a fastball while batting in the second game of the season. McCarthy and Suzuki were teammates in Oakland in 2011-12.

“A lot of that was Zuke. Zuke changed gears really early,” McCarthy said. “I mean, just part of Coors – every sinker I threw cut, every cutter I threw sank. He changed gears really quickly and kind of fell back into patterns that we had years ago. He was fantastic, so it just enabled me to throw it where he called it, and we got some early outs and just kind of kept grinding through.”

The only blips for McCarthy after the first inning were the bases-empty homers in the fourth. He faced three or four batters in each of his other four innings.

“I just tried to stop throwing terrible pitches,” McCarthy said in his typical dry tone, when asked about settling down after the homers. “We got beat on the same pitch twice to CarGo and that was annoying for us, but otherwise the pitch to Story was a Coors Field slider.

“I’m happy for him, he used to be my workout partner for years, and he looked really happy when he hit it. I didn’t want to do any more of that. Just started focusing and getting back to quality pitches.”

He helped his cause significantly with a two-run, two-out double in the fifth, after striking out with bases loaded in the first and third innings against right-hander German Marquez, the only two strikeouts recorded by the hard-throwing Rockies pitcher in 4 2/3 rough innings (seven hits, seven runs, six walks).

“I kind of punted the first two (at-bats),” McCarthy said. “I didn’t swing before the game, I wasn’t really ready to hit in 10-degree weather off a guy throwing 95 (mph), so that last at-bat I was starting to get frustrated, so I’m glad I was able to do something there.”