for this game

Braves win again to keep alive slim playoff hopes

Sep 22, 2006 - 3:25 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- The Atlanta Braves may be a long shot to reach the playoffs at this point, but John Smoltz and Andruw Jones have not given up hope.

Smoltz authored a second straight impressive outing and Jones homered and drove in four runs as the Braves recorded a 6-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

Behind the big efforts from two of its most prominent veterans, Atlanta (75-78) won for the sixth time in eight games. However, the Braves' streak of 14 straight playoff appearances still is in major jeopardy as they sit five games off the wild card pace with just nine contests remaining.

After having his $8 million option for 2007 picked up by the Braves earlier Thursday, Smoltz (14-9) went out and rewarded the team by winning his second straight start.

"He was outstanding," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He really clutched it in and made some tremendous pitches. He had some trouble at first with the cold. They swing at a lot of first pitches and hit them."

The 39-year-old Smoltz allowed three runs and nine hits in seven innings. He had been just 1-2 with a 4.54 ERA in his career at Coors Field, where the game-time temperature was just 58 degrees Thursday.

"I don't mind telling you how much I hate this place," Smoltz said. "First couple of innings didn't go real well but I didn't fight it. I tried to grind. When you are out here, you cannot force things you don't have."

The righthander did not walk a batter and struck out seven, including a pair that helped him escape first-and-third jams in the fourth and seventh.

"Six different innings we left runners on base, especially in the fourth and seventh," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "(It hurt that) we didn't get those hits."

Matt Holliday reached Smoltz for a solo home run in the second and an RBI single in the third to help the Rockies carry a 3-1 advantage into the sixth.

"It's off of a Hall of Fame pitcher, so it'll be a memorable one," Holliday said of his 30th home run. "It's about as good as I can hit a ball opposite field."

However, the Braves scored three runs off Byung-Hyun Kim in the sixth to take the lead for good.

Willy Aybar drew a leadoff walk from the Korean righthander and Adam LaRoche singled to right. Jones followed by launching Kim's 0-1 offering over the left field wall for his 37th homer.

"I was looking for a slider and it backed up and I got a good swing on it," Jones said. "I thought I missed it, but in Colorado, sometimes you get some cheap homers."

Jones, who also had a sacrifice fly in the first inning, is 5-for-13 with three homers through the first four games of the Braves' seven-game road trip.

The Rockies squandered a big opportunity to tie the game in the eighth. With a runner on and two outs, rookie Troy Tulowitzki reached on a throwing error by second baseman Marcus Giles. But Tulowitzki did not realize the errant throw had stayed in play and was tagged out by first baseman LaRoche as he casually walked back to the bag.

"I was just trying to be aggressive and get to second base and get in scoring position," Tulowitzki said. "Took a couple hard steps to second and he had the ball, and there's nothing I can do."

Aybar added a two-run single in the ninth to make things easier for Bob Wickman, who worked the bottom half for his 16th save since coming to Atlanta in a trade with Cleveland.

Kim (8-12) allowed four runs, four hits and four walks in seven innings to fall to 1-6 in his last nine starts.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!