Apr 24, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Michael Cuddyer (3) hits a home run during the second inning against the Atlanta Braves at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

As Clutch As It Gets

If April showers, bring May flowers, what does April snow bring?

That all depends on who the Rockies are playing. Last week the Rockies swept a traditional double header against the New York Mets. That’s right: one ticket, two games. It was a pretty good day if you could stay warm.  Yesterday however, against a quality NL East opponent in the Atlanta Braves, it was different story all together. Not only were the games scheduled as a new money making day-night double header, but the Rockies got swept for the day. The Braves looked like they did in the 1995 playoffs. That is to say: very, very good.

Today’s game was an attempt at salvaging a win against the team that has dominated the Rockies since that first playoff year in ’95. The Braves sent the elder statesman of the rotation to the mound. Tim Hudson, a 3-time all-star, former 20 game winner and 2010 comeback player of the year, did what every member of the Braves staff does: give them a chance to win. Any time you can limit a Colorado lineup to three runs as a starter you’ve done a good job.

Two of those three runs given up by Hudson were on back-to-back home runs by Michael Cuddyer and Josh Rutledge in the second inning. This again showed the whole lineup can produce on any day. As for the Braves lineup, they score in bunches: quality team and clutch hitting. They responded in the fourth inning with three runs in which Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, and even Hudson participated to take the lead.

Not to be outdone by the Braves significantly more talented pitcher, Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood (replacing injured Jhoulys Chacin in the rotation) got in on the offense too. In the bottom of the fourth with two runners on base, Chatwood drove in Chris Nelson with an infield single, tying the game at three. The Braves of course countered with another small-ball, whole-lineup rally. With a runner on second the veteran second baseman Uggla hit an infield single to drive in a run, which was compounded by a throwing error by shortstop Jonathan Herrera. Uggla was then brought around to score when outfielder Justin Schafer singled to make it a 5-3 Atlanta lead. That lead would stand until the bottom of the ninth inning.

In the bottom of the ninth, with a two run lead, there was no question who was going to pitch for the Braves: Craig Kimbrel, the 2011 NL rookie of the year and an all-star in each of his only two full seasons. Kimbrel has had more saves than any other pitcher since 2011 and came into the day saving eighteen in a row.  Trying to make up for a sixth inning throwing error, Herrera hit a one out double (I think he made up for it just fine by finishing 3-4 with a walk and run scored). A pinch hitting Troy Tulowitzki singled to advance Herrera to third, bringing up the suddenly powerful Dexter Fowler.

Blame me for poor foreshadowing but Fowler didn’t hit a homer to win in the bottom the ninth. He did however double and drive in both runners to tie the game at five and give Kimbrel his first blown save since August 31, 2012.

In extras the Rockies kept the pressure on. In the bottom of the eleventh Eric Young Jr. was thrown out at home on a good play by Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and the threat was ended until the Rockies would come up in the bottom of the twelfth inning.

Atlanta brought in pitcher Luis Ayala the next inning. He put himself right back in the fire by giving up a lead-off double to the “Baby Bull,” Wilin Rosario. Cuddyer, who homered earlier and was acquired just for these type of veteran moments, was intentionally walked to put the force at third base. Pitcher Matt Belisle was left in the game to hit for himself. If you ignore the fact that he struck out when a 2-strike bunt attempt went foul, the Rockies twelfth inning was flawless. Yorvit Torrealba then came to the dish and, sure enough, singled to left field for his third career walk-off hit. Rockies win 6-5.

Today’s game was very exciting and showed that the Rockies can hit in the clutch against one of baseball’s very best. Tomorrow Colorado will head to the desert for a  four game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks and try to get revenge against the team that snapped the teams eight game win streak last Sunday. Projected starters are: Jorge De La Rosa (2-1) v. Trevor Cahill (0-3).

Tags: Colorado Rockies

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