Three Cuts: Simmons' walk-off 3B lifts Braves by Rockies in 10

BY foxsports • July 29, 2013

ATLANTA -- Andrelton Simmons slid hard into third base and was mobbed by his teammates as he rose up, his 10th-inning RBI triple giving Braves a 9-8 win over the Rockies.

Twice the Braves overcame deficits -- six runs and one -- for their MLB-best 32nd come-from-behind victory of the season and the 17th in the final at-bat.

"It was a wacky game," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I made that comment in the dugout, I said 'Shoot, I thought we were playing at home today instead of (Denver's) Coors Field.'"

Clutch moments have been Simmons' forte. The second-year shortstop delivered his seventh game-winning RBI and his 11th go-ahead hit of the season.

"I like the big moments," Simmons said. "Everybody likes the big moments. I feel like I had opportunities before this season and I'm definitely making the most of them lately."

So too, did Scott Downs. Acquired earlier in the day in a trade with the Angels for Cory Rasmus, Downs arrived at about 7:20 p.m. and was inserted into the game a few hours later, pitching the final 1 1/3 innings to get the win.

Here are three more cuts from Atlanta's fourth straight win.

Terry Pendleton won a batting title in 1991 and Chipper Jones delivered the Braves' last one in 2008. Both were third basemen and now, another is setting himself up for a run at a crown.

Chris Johnson stroked Jorge De La Rosa's slider just inside the left field line during the Braves' six-run third inning, scoring Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman as Johnson strolled into second for his 23rd double of the season.

He single in the fifth inning, going 2-for-5 increasing his National League-leading average to .339, second only to the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera overall.

Johnson has gone from throw-in in the Justin Upton deal to a platoon at third with Juan Francisco to one of the hottest hitters in the game. Since June 23 he's 44-for-116 (.379) and during a current seven-game hitting streak, that average sits at .461 (12-for-26).

The question is: can he keep it up?

Johnson has never hit higher than .308 in five seasons, with that coming in his first full season of 2010 and in the last two years he's hit .251 and .279. As much as a season in which he's seemed to breakout also coincides with his playing every day after the trade of Francisco, it's also a year in which he's hitting .421 on balls in play.

The league average for BABIP is .296 an the next closest to Johnson is the Twins' Joe Mauer at .392, though Johnson is also third in line drive percentage at 28.5, so that .421 isn't smoke and mirrors. Still, it's so high above anyone else that it's likely unobtainable.

But Johnson just keeps hitting, leading all Braves with 33 multi-hit games and becoming the latest third baseman to rise to the top of the NL in hitting.

Of course, the Pendleton/Jones/Johnson connections go beyond their position. Johnson attended Stetson, where Jones' godfather Pete Dunn, coaches and the first base coach for both Jones and Johnson? It's Pendleton.

Eerie? No.

On just the second pitch of Brandon Beachy's comeback start, Dexter Fowler doubled. Four more extra base hits would follow as the Rockies jumped on the Braves' starter in his 3 2/3 innings.

Pitching for the first time in an Atlanta uniform since he tore his ulnar collateral ligament on June 16, 2012, Beachy was, to put it lightly, rough.

He left having given up eight hits in all, including home runs to Rosario and Arenado, along with seven earned runs, striking out five and walking one.

"I'm not going to chalk this up to part of the process," Beachy said. "No, I'm not going to do that. I pitched poorly and really let the guys down after they came back and got me that lead. That's not acceptable, no matter what the circumstances are."

After the strong performances by the staff in its weekend sweep of the Cardinals as Mike Minor (one run on four hits in seven innings), Julio Teheran (zero runs and two hits in seven) and Kris Medlen (two earned and eight hits in six) all looked strong, it was nearly unrealistic to expect Beachy to follow suit in his first major league game in 13 months.

With the trade deadline looming, it had some taking to Twitter, calling for Atlanta to make a move for a starter in the aftermath of losing Tim Hudson for the season. But if Beachy can become the same Beachy that led the NL with a 2.00 ERA at the time of that injury, it will be akin to trading for another arm.

Monday wasn't indicative of that, but it was one start and Beachy's first since Tommy John surgery. Patience, even with the deadline hours away, is a point of emphasis right now.

"First outing, it's tough to even evaluate it," Gonzalez said. "It's coming out of spring training for him, or maybe even worse because of Tommy John."

Gonzalez is a tinkerer, that's been obvious with the way that he's shuffled the lineup this season, but in his latest tweaks, he may be on to something.

Jason Heyward has thrived in three games since moving up to the leadoff spot Saturday, going 2-for-5 with an RBI Monday and 4-for-12 (.333) with a homer, a walk and three RBI in all. By comparison, he's at .226 at second, his normal spot in the order.

No, at 6-foot-5 he's not built like a prototypical leadoff hitter, but there's at least one taller player in major league history to hit first as the Brewers' 6-6 Corey Hart did it in 2011 and '12.

While Heyward has seemed to find a spark in rising in the lineup, Simmons has done the same by dropping.

The shortstop, who hit .223 in 61 games in the top spot, is 7-for-13 (.538) with a triple, pair of doubles and five RBI in two games at eight and one in seventh, where he hit Monday. It's the longest Simmons has been out of leadoff since late April.

"I've been lagging behind driving runs in," Simmons said. "I've had a lot of opportunities and I'm happy I'm getting it done lately."