Originally created 05/02/04

Atlanta offense gets split



DENVER -- The clutch hits that eluded the Atlanta Braves in the first game of their doubleheader against Colorado were plentiful in Game 2.

Johnny Estrada and Jesse Garcia each hit two-run singles in Atlanta's six-run eighth inning, and the Braves split a doubleheader with an 11-7 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.

"We haven't left men on base much this year, we have been driving them in for the most part," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "We left 14 on in the first game, but we had clutch after clutch after clutch tonight, especially from our bench guys, Johnny Estrada and Jesse Garcia."

Trailing 7-5, the Braves loaded the bases and Estrada drove in two with two outs off Vladimir Nunez. Adam LaRoche followed with a walk to load the bases again, and Garcia followed with his two-run single to give Atlanta a 9-7 lead.

"We had to come up with some clutch hits today," said Garcia, who was 3-for-4 in the nightcap. "And with two outs, it was a big hit, and I took advantage of the situation."

Julio Franco added a two-run double in the eighth inning.

C.J. Nitkowski (1-0) retired the only batter he faced in the seventh to earn the win.

Nunez (3-1) got the victory in Game 1 as the Rockies won 3-2 on Mark Sweeney's sacrifice fly in the eighth inning, but Nunez took the loss in the nightcap.

Colorado took a 7-5 lead on a two-run homer by Vinny Castilla in the seventh inning off starter John Thomson.

Thomson gave up 10 hits and seven runs in 6 2-3 innings.

Rockies starter Scott Elarton went six innings and gave up five runs, but factor in the decision. He's winless in his last five starts, and last won Sept 19, 2003.

The Braves got to Elarton for three runs in the fifth that included a two-run double to left by Thomson. Wise drove in Thomson with a double.

Hawpe tied it 5-5 in the sixth with a two-run homer.

In the opener, Colorado beat Atlanta for the first time since Aug. 18, 2002.

Nunez worked a scoreless eighth for the win, and Shawn Chacon got three outs for his sixth save in seven chances despite giving up a triple to Andruw Jones in the ninth.

With the score tied, Charles Johnson reached on an infield hit to lead off the eighth and Kit Pellow sent him to third with a one-out single to right against Chris Reitsma (1-1). Sweeney followed with a fly to center that scored Johnson and gave Colorado the lead.

"We didn't get enough strikes out of the bullpen in the eighth inning," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "We didn't attack the zone."

The Rockies scored twice in the fifth to erase a 2-0 deficit. Pinch-hitter Todd Greene drove in Matt Holliday with a double to right to make it 2-1. Aaron Miles singled and Royce Clayton walked to load the bases, and Braves starter Mike Hampton walked Castilla to tie it.

"With Vinny up there, he is pretty aggressive," Hampton said. "I thought he would come up swinging with the bases loaded, but he didn't."

Hampton pitched five innings and gave up two runs and five hits in failing to pick up his first win of the season. Hampton, a member of the Rockies from 2001-02, was booed when introduced before every plate appearance.

The Braves left two runners on in each of in the last two innings of Game 1.

Jones was on third base with one out in the ninth when left fielder Denny Hocking dropped his fly ball in the ninth, but Chacon retired LaRoche and Garcia to end the game.

Joe Kennedy allowed two runs and six hits in five innings - his shortest outing of the season for Colorado.

"Kennedy had a good game and minimized the damage and kept them from scoring," Hurdle said. "He wasn't as sharp as his previous four outings, but he gave us a chance to win the game."

Atlanta went up 2-0 in the third on J.D. Drew's RBI triple and Damon Hollins' RBI double.

Notes: 1B Franco rejoined the Braves after missing the entire San Francisco with an inner-ear infection. ... Colorado reliever Tim Harikkala had a string of 22 consecutive batters retired ended when he walked Drew in the seventh. ... Clayton had his 12-game hitting streak ended in the second game.