The slumping Atlanta Braves have cooled off quite a bit since getting off to a blazing start.
Coming off their first home loss, the Colorado Rockies are looking to get back on track, too.
Tied for the best record in baseball, the Braves try to continue their recent success against the Rockies as these clubs open a three-game set Monday night at Coors Field.
After averaging 5.2 runs while opening 12-1, Atlanta (13-5) has come back down to earth in dropping four of five. Having scored just nine runs while batting .195 over that stretch, the Braves are coming off their third straight loss, 4-2 at Pittsburgh on Sunday.
"We're just not capitalizing on our opportunities offensively," said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team dropped to 0-5 when going without a homer. "We're not getting that big hit when we need it. We're not catching any breaks either, like a broken-bat hit or a pitch going to the backstop. It'll turn around, though."
The Braves could get a boost from cleanup hitter Freddie Freeman, who's expected to be activated from the disabled list after going 5 for 10 with two doubles during a three-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett. Freeman was 7 for 17 with a homer and seven RBIs before suffering a strained right oblique April 6. Dan Uggla should also be available after sitting out Sunday due to a strained left calf.
Despite their recent woes, the Braves still lead the majors with 29 long balls, one ahead of Colorado (13-5). The Rockies also have a major league-best .482 slugging percentage and rank second with 104 runs.
Colorado had opened a franchise-best 8-0 at home and won eight straight overall before falling 5-4 to Arizona in Sunday's series finale. Troy Tulowitzki went 2 for 4 with his sixth homer, but the Rockies gave up three runs over the last two innings - including two in the ninth - with closer Rafael Betancourt unavailable after pitching the previous two days
"This is a good team and we battle every single game," said Carlos Gonzalez, batting a team-high .364. "If you're going to lose your winning streak, it's better to do it the way we did today, playing good baseball. We just had one bad inning at the end."
Colorado could have a hard time regrouping versus Atlanta, which has taken 12 of 15 in the series, including seven of the last eight. The Braves are batting .327 and have scored 38 runs during a four-game winning streak in Denver.
Atlanta now gives the ball to Mike Minor (2-1, 0.95 ERA), who's struck out 16 and walked just one over his first three starts spanning 19 innings. The left-hander gave up one run and five hits over six frames but was saddled with a hard-luck loss in Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Kansas CIty.
While Minor was tagged for a career-high eight runs over five innings at Colorado on May 5, he struck out seven over seven innings of one-hit ball Sept. 5, in his only other start in the series.
The Rockies counter with Jeff Francis (1-1, 8.25), who's allowed 15 runs - 10 earned - 16 hits and six walks over his last two starts spanning just six innings. The left-hander is 3-2 with a 6.49 ERA over five career outings against the Braves, but he hasn't faced them since 2007.
Francis will need to be cautious with Justin Upton, who's gone 8 for 22 with two homers in their matchups. The slugging left fielder, who leads the majors with nine homers, is batting .341 with five long balls and 16 RBIs over his last 25 games against the Rockies.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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