Braves 7, Rockies 4

July 19, 2011

Derek Lowe enjoyed the sun beating down on him and was glad it went straight into Todd Helton's eyes at just the right moment.

Feeling right at home on an unusually warm night in Colorado, the sunshine actually helped Lowe and the Atlanta Braves beat the Rockies 7-4 Monday night.

Lowe's ground ball to third base in the second inning resulted in a two-run error on first baseman Todd Helton, who lost third baseman Ty Wiggington's throw in the setting sun, igniting the Braves' fifth win in five tries over the Rockies this month.

The 92-degree heat felt more like the Deep South than the Mountain West, and Lowe loved it.

''Playing in Atlanta, you can't really go any place that's hotter than Atlanta,'' he said. ''I think it's an advantage.''

And playing in Colorado this time of year, there's a window of 10 minutes or so when pitchers don't dare try to pick off a runner at first and the infielders usually think twice about throwing it there if they can help it.

The setting sun just peaks right over the Rocky Mountains and into the first baseman's eyes.

Helton said there's no other ballpark that gives him fits as Coors Field does this time of year.

''It's one of those things that's a worse-case scenario, a nightmare: bases loaded, pitcher's hitting,'' he said. ''But I couldn't see it. I put my glove up where I thought the ball was going to go. It's just a bad break.''

Once on first, Lowe saw exactly what Helton was talking about.

''When I was at first base, I mean, you can't see,'' Lowe said. ''He was kind of mad at the guy that threw it. He was mad that he threw it to first base. When you play here all the time you probably know early on don't throw it to first base (at that time). It's definitely a stadium fault.

''When we were over there, we were talking about it, you can't see. Even if the pitcher threw over there, you can't see. And it was a huge part of the game. You take those two runs away and who knows what would have happened?''

Lowe, who handcuffed the Rockies for 6 1-3 innings, joked that he should have been given a base hit and two RBIs. After all, he argued, if an outfielder loses the ball in the sun and it drops to the grass, that's not an error.

Jason Hammel was walking off the mound toward the dugout, figuring he'd induced just the ground ball he wanted from his counterpart.

''Yeah, it was bad luck. But that wasn't really the story of the game,'' said Hammel, who lacked control and couldn't locate any of his pitches.

Lowe (6-7) gave up four runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 solid innings on a 92-degree night, finally fading in the seventh when he left with a 7-2 lead and watched his bullpen allow two more runs.

Rookie Craig Kimbrel recorded his 16th straight scoreless appearance, striking out the side in the ninth for his 29th save in 34 chances.

Hammel (5-9) appeared to get out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam when he induced the routine ground ball from Lowe with two outs in the second inning, but Helton lost Wiggington's throw, allowing Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla to score.

Because the throw was on line, Helton was charged with the error, the second costly miscue by the usually sure-handed first baseman in three days.

One night after his first career game-winning hit, a single that lifted Atlanta past Washington 9-8, Freeman delivered again for the Braves, driving a fastball in the third inning into the rock pile in center for a two-run homer, the rookie's 14th. He finished with three hits and three RBIs.

One out later, Eric Hinske sent another first-pitch offering into the right-field seats for his ninth homer and a 5-0 lead.

Hammel allowed six runs, four earned, and eight hits in five innings.

The Rockies were limited to Helton's RBI single until the seventh, when Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki hit run-scoring bloop singles and Helton added a sacrifice fly.

Notes: Braves RF Jason Heyward was scratched from the lineup because of a bruised left foot. Heyward, who was hit by a pitch Sunday against Washington, was replaced by Nate McLouth. ... 3B Chipper Jones, on the 15-day DL following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee July 9, has joined Atlanta's Triple-A team to begin a rehab assignment later this week. ... Hammel hasn't won consecutive starts since April.


Arnie Stapleton can be reached at