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Braves rock Colorado, complete sweep

POSTED: September 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.
JOHN BAZEMORE/The Associated Press

Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones connects for a double in the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday in Atlanta.

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ATLANTA — The Colorado Rockies are streaking again in September. This time it’s in the wrong direction.

Colorado’s dismal playoff hopes took another blow Thursday night when Yunel Escobar’s three-run homer capped a five-run sixth inning and the Atlanta Braves beat the Rockies 8-4 to complete a three-game sweep.

The Rockies won 20 of 28 games last September, including 11 in a row, to make the playoffs.
This year, the Rockies (67-80) have lost five straight, their longest skid since eight in a row from June 22-30. A 3-6 record in September has left the Rockies 81/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

“We come in here having some hope of catching those two teams out in front of us,” said Glendon Rusch, who gave up four runs in the sixth. “To lose three in a row is pretty tough.”

The Rockies lost a 4-2 lead.

“That makes it tough to swallow,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’re just not able to do enough good things when we need to.”

The Rockies, five games behind second-place Arizona with 15 games left in the regular season, have become also-rans in the playoff chase one year after playing in the World Series.

“We’re making it real hard on ourselves,” shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. “We don’t control our destiny anymore. We’ll need help from others.”

Escobar had three hits and a walk as the Braves capped their first home sweep since May 20-22 against the New York Mets.

“We’re playing the spoiler, and I would say that’s one we probably spoiled,” said Atlanta’s Kelly Johnson, who had a triple.

Braves rookie Jair Jurrjens (13-9) set a career high with 10 strikeouts, allowing eight hits and four runs in six innings. His 13 wins are a high for an Atlanta rookie since Craig McMurtry went 15-9 in 1983.

“Right now I’m just thinking about quality starts,” Jurrjens said. “I just want to finish strong. I’m not going to stress, just have fun and throw strikes and try to give my team a chance to win.”

Manager Bobby Cox noted that Jurrjens showed no sign of late-season rookie fatigue.

“I think it’s the hardest he’s thrown all year,” Cox said. “He hit 95 (mph) three or four times.”

Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez gave up five hits and three runs, two earned, in five innings. He struck out six but walked four.

Jimenez, who suffered cramps in both legs in his final inning, left with a 4-3 lead, but the Braves scored five runs in the sixth off Rusch (5-5) and Matt Herges. Gregor Blanco doubled to lead off the inning, stole third and scored on pinch-hitter Omar Infante’s sacrifice fly.

Johnson hit a triple over Brad Hawpe in right field. Rusch intentionally walked Chipper Jones then gave up Brian McCann’s single to left, driving in Johnson for a 5-4 lead.

“I basically just left pitches out over the plate,” Rusch said.

“I usually get ahead of guys pretty well, and the key is to make quality pitches when you are ahead and I didn’t do that.”

Herges replaced Rusch and gave up Escobar’s 10th homer, making it 8-4.

Jurrjens gave up three runs in the third.

Willy Taveras walked and moved to third on Jeff Baker’s single. Matt Holliday drove in both with a double to right and scored on Garrett Atkins’ single for a 3-2 lead.

Hawpe’s 25th homer in the fifth made it 4-2.

Atlanta’s Jeff Francoeur stranded eight runners in his first three at-bats.

Francoeur hit a soft pop fly to third baseman Ian Stewart with the bases loaded in the second, but Blanco followed with a two-run single.

Francoeur struck out to leave the bases loaded in the third. He hit a fly ball to right field in the fifth to strand two runners. Casey Kotchman drove in a run earlier in the fifth with a bases-loaded groundout, cutting Colorado’s lead to 4-3.

Francoeur is 4-for-31 this season with the bases loaded. He is 1-for-20 with less than two outs and the bases loaded.

It was the first time the Rockies were swept in three games in Atlanta since Aug. 24-26, 2004. Colorado has lost 15 of 18 at Turner Field since Aug. 19, 2002.

Notes: Hurdle said he is replacing RHP Livan Hernandez with rookie LHP Greg Reynolds in the rotation. Reynolds is scheduled to start Monday against San Diego. Hernandez will work in long relief. ... Cox said rookie RHP Charlie Morton “basically” is shut down for the season. Morton has had discomfort in an area beneath his right shoulder blade. He lasted only 3 1-3 innings in his last start on Sept. 2. ... Johnson is 19-for-41 (.463) with two homers, three triples, six doubles and 12 RBIs in his 10-game hitting streak.



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