DENVER – The sixth inning has doomed the Braves in each of the first three games of their four-game series against the Rockies, and Saturday it also ruined what had been a strong performance by Matt Wisler.
Wisler was pitching a two-hitter and had a 3-2 lead until the sixth inning, when the Rockies scored five runs and rolled to an 8-4 win, their eighth in a row against the Braves at Coors Field. The Braves have lost 13 of their past 15 games against the Rockies and need a win Sunday afternoon to avoid being swept again.
“I understand I’ve got to grow still, but I’m past all that stuff (as consolation),” said Wisler, who was charged with five hits, six runs and two walks in 5 1/3 innings. “The way I’m throwing right now it’s just unacceptable. I’ve just got to find a way to get through it.”
Rockies rookie sensation Trevor Story had career-highs of four hits and five RBIs Saturday including two homers, giving him 26 homers — two more than the previous National League record for rookie shortstops by ex-Rockie Troy Tulowitzki in 2007.
Story had a two-run single in the — wait for it — sixth inning. Three straight nights, the Braves were tied or led after five innings, only to see the Rockies dominate the sixth and change everything.
“Just that sixth inning,” said Braves interim manager Brian Snitker, whose team is 1-5 on a nine-game trip and must win Sunday to avoid being swept against at Coors, where Atlanta last won on June 10, 2014. “I think every sixth inning in this series it’s kind of just gotten away from us for some reason.”
Indeed, in Thursday’s series opener it was a scoreless game before Carlos Gonzalez hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning off Braves starter Mike Folynewicz, who didn’t make it out of the inning. The Braves lost, 7-3.
The Braves led 1-0 through five innings Friday, before the Rockies scored four runs in the sixth inning on two-run homers by Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. The Braves lost, 4-3.
And then again Saturday, when Wisler (4-10) was throwing a two-hitter and the Braves led 3-2 through five innings.
The Rockies scored five runs in the sixth against three pitchers before the second out of the inning was recorded. A one-run lead became a 7-3 deficit in a span of six batters: DJ LeMahieu one-out walk followed by Nolan Arenado’s single, Carlos Gonzalez’s RBI double off the center-field wall and Trevor Story’s two-out single, which ended Wisler’s night.
“I was real pleased with the first five innings,” Snitker said. “He did everything we asked him to do, what they worked on since his last start. And he was really good. He was on the attack. Threw his change-up more, which is what we wanted him to do. He was getting the ball in on hitters better.
“And then the one inning, after the walk it seemed like it just unraveled. He’s got to get over that hump.”
Wisler said, “The first five innings were probably the best I’ve thrown in a long time…. Just the sixth inning, I fell apart.”
Wisler was replaced by left-hander Ian Krol, who walked the next two batters and threw a wild pitch before giving up a two-run single to Tony Wolters. Krol left the game without recording an out, and rookie Mauricio Cabrera entered to mercifully end the inning by retiring the next two batters on a strikeout and ground out.
For Wisler, what had looked like an encouraging night quickly turned into a third consecutive start in which he allowed at least five earned runs in 5 1/3 or fewer innings. Both Wisler and Rockies starter Tyler Anderson, a rookie lefty, stayed in the game after a 47-minute rain delay before the third inning. Anderson gave up three runs and eight hits in six innings.
Wisler, in his first full season, is 2-5 with a 7.40 ERA in his past nine starts while allowing 68 hits and 13 homers in 48 2/3 innings.
He had four consecutive quality starts in the middle of that stretch, but has given up 16 earned runs and six homers in 15 1/3 innings over his past three starts.
“He’s always been very good in some innings, and then one inning he just probably loses command,” Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte said. “That inning he wasn’t spotting as well as he was earlier, and they took advantage of it.”
Through five innings Saturday, the Rockies’ only two hits belonged to Story, including a two-run homer in the second inning. Story homered on a slider with Wisler ahead in the count, 1-2, after Gonzalez drew a leadoff walk.
In the Rockies’ scoring blitz in the sixth, Story’s third hit of the game sent Wisler to the showers. His fourth hit was a leadoff homer against Jim Johnson in the eighth inning.
The Braves had the potential tying run at the plate in the eighth, with two runners in scoring position and one out, trailing 7-4. But Inciarte struck out and Anthony Recker grounded out.