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Publish Date: 5/10/2005

Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins, top, looks to the third base umpire for a call as the Braves’ Brian Jordan slides safely into third Monday in Denver. Jordan advanced from first to third on a fielding error by Rockies second baseman Aaron Miles, who bobbled a ground ball hit by Johnny Estrada.AP/David Zalubowski

Instant relief
Rockies’ bullpen provides strong pitching in narrow, one-run victory vs. Braves

DENVER — Get a load of that Colorado Rockies bullpen.

Beleaguered and belittled, ripped and ridiculed through 28 games in 2005 for obvious reasons, the Rockies relievers were not only one of the two main culprits Monday in Colorado’s 7-6 victory over Atlanta, they were way better than anything the Braves mustered.

Jose Acevedo, Brian Fuentes and closer Chin-hui Tsao threw 32/3 innings of scoreless and walk-less relief. Tsao reached 97 mph in the ninth and fanned two. They nursed a one-run lead over the game’s final stretch against one of baseball’s better offenses. When everyone expected misery, the Rockies bullpen gave relief. Go figure.

“I don’t think there was anybody in the ballpark who thought it would finish up 7-6 after the fourth (when it was already 7-6),” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “I didn’t.”

Said Acevedo: “It’s like our pitching coach (Bob Apodaca) says, we are going to be there when we have to. I know the bullpen was struggling at the beginning of the season, but now we’ve gotten the job done and we’re coming out aggressive. We’re not walking too many guys. This is what we need to win.”

It is mainly because of the bullpen’s ineptitude through the season’s early weeks that the Rockies have started 8-21 and, to most observers, are playing something that only sort of resembles baseball. But Monday’s story centered on how their bullpen managed to bail out starter Jamey Wright and outperform Atlanta’s pitchers, especially star-acquisition Tim Hudson.

Only two Rockies had ever faced Hudson before, and neither Desi Relaford nor Dustan Mohr started Monday. Hudson entered the night 95-40 all-time, the third best winning percentage among major leaguers with at least 100 decisions. He was 78-3 when he received four or more runs worth of support.

Hurdle told his hitters to be patient and wait for a pitch in the zone. They mostly did, even though first baseman Todd Helton (two doubles, two RBIs) admitted after the game he doesn’t listen to Hurdle’s advice. Others applied common sense when describing their approach vs. Hudson.

“We made (Hudson) get his ball up,” second baseman Aaron Miles said. “He’s a great sinkerball pitcher. I imagine he had a little trouble dealing with Coors Field.”

Said Hawpe: “We hadn’t faced him before, so we just came in looking for something out over the plate.”

It was Hawpe’s two-out, two run bloop single to right scoring Miles and Clint Barmes that put the Rockies up 7-6 in the fourth. Atlanta scored twice in the frame’s top half on a two-run double by Adam LaRoche to put the Braves ahead 6-4 going into the middle innings.

That’s where things usually get shaky for Colorado. The Rockies haven’t had much luck from the fifth to the seventh, having been outscored 87-35 during those frames in 2005. But Monday was a different story at Coors Field, and a different result.

“Give those guys credit over there,” Hudson said. “They battled and put me in a position where they could score some runs and they took advantage of it. That’s the bottom line.”

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