video thumbnail

COL@ATL: Nicasio tosses six scoreless innings

ATLANTA -- Rockies starter Juan Nicasio's last trip to Turner Field was disastrous. The right-hander gave up eight earned runs on 10 hits, walked three and threw 92 pitches in four innings of an 11-3 loss to the Braves on July 30, 2013.

Nearly 10 months later, Nicasio achieved redemption. He allowed two hits and walked four in six scoreless innings as Michael Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki homered in the Rockies' 3-1 win over the Braves on Saturday afternoon.

Colorado snapped a streak of four consecutive road games with two runs or fewer, winning only its third road contest in its past nine. Those three runs gave Nicasio a nice cushion and the right-hander turned in his fifth start this year of six or more innings.

As Nicasio toed the rubber, he thought of a tough Friday night that not only saw the Rockies lose third baseman Nolan Arenado to a fractured finger, but surrender a close game in the final innings to extend the club's losing streak on the road to four.

"I know I needed to win today," Nicasio said.

"Bouncing back from the loss last night after the travel that we had, it was big for us to win," Cuddyer said. "We rode Nicasio's shoulders today."

Nicasio pitched impressively in his second scoreless outing of 2014, but it was, at times, a white-knuckled affair. But Nicasio worked out of every jam he created, including his loading of the bases in the bottom of third.

The righty recorded two quick outs before walking Jason Heyward, giving up a single to B.J. Upton and walking Freddie Freeman to load the bases for Justin Upton, who entered Saturday ranked sixth in the Majors with a .379 home batting average. But Nicasio hung tough, using his slider to get the younger Upton to pop out to first baseman Justin Morneau in foul territory and end the threat.

"I threw my slider, and he popped out to first," Nicasio said. "It was a good slider, and he swung."

Nicasio also put a runner in scoring position during the sixth when he gave up a one-out double. But he again relied on his slider, using it to retire Evan Gattis on a groundout before retiring Chris Johnson on a 94-mph fastball.

"I think that's the test for a lot of relatively young starters -- they're going to run into some traffic," manager Walt Weiss said. "Having the ability to pitch through it and minimize an inning, that shows maturity.

"His slider was good for him, but I think it all started with his fastball. He was able to elevate it at times and get some swings and misses, but he pitched well with his fastball."

Nicasio added: "When I have my command of my fastball, I have a good slider."

Meanwhile, Colorado's lineup did enough to give Nicasio a comfortable lead.

No team in the National League has hit more home runs than the Rockies, who took advantage of Braves starter Mike Minor's propensity to give up the long ball. Seven of the 13 earned runs Minor has surrendered this season have come on home runs.

Cuddyer's shot was his second in as many days as he continues his tear since coming off the disabled list on Tuesday. He turned a 3-0 fastball from Minor into his second career homer at Turner Field to give Colorado a 1-0 lead in the second.

"[On] 3-0, I thought he might swing, but I was hoping he'd get big and just pop it up or roll over it," Minor said. "I threw it up and out, right where he wanted it."

The veteran is batting .350 (7-for-20) with two home runs and a double in five games since returning from a strained left hamstring.

"I'm getting my timing back after missing a month," Cuddyer said. "The last few days have been good."

Charlie Culberson, starting in place of Arenado at third, also enjoyed a good game offensively. He finished 2-for-4 and made a great maneuver to avoid a tag from Gattis at home plate in the seventh to add a crucial insurance run after replay overturned the initial out call.

"Charlie did a great job," Weiss said. "Tough night last night, but I feel like we've got some pretty nice players to go to here in Nolan's absence."

Saturday's game began to look a lot like Friday's as Colorado began to lose its grip in the bottom of the eighth. Boone Logan gave up back-to-back hits to B.J. Upton and Freddie Freeman, setting the stage for Justin Upton once again.

That's when Weiss turned to right-hander Adam Ottavino, who had surrendered the game-winning run one night earlier. But Ottavino proved to have a short memory, letting one run score on a sacrifice fly by Upton before striking out Gattis to end the threat.

Life without Arenado will be difficult for the Rockies, who will miss their star third baseman. But victories like Saturday's give Weiss confidence his club can weather the storm.

"This team's been resilient, and they turn the page," Weiss said. 'They show up the next day and compete and they don't lose confidence." Comments