ATLANTA (AP) — Jim Tracy is hoping better health and improved starting pitching leads to a second-half run after his Colorado Rockies fell five games below .500 for the first time this season.Aaron Cook gave up 10 hits and seven runs in five-plus innings as the slumping Rockies fell 9-1 to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
The Rockies (41-46) have lost four straight, including three straight to Atlanta.
Colorado again played without outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who were held out with wrist and quadriceps injuries, respectively.
Tracy said “there’s a good chance” Gonzalez will return to the lineup in Thursday’s final game of the four-game series.
“The big key for us, moving forward, will be how we handle this,” Tracy said. “Because we’re closer to getting some of our pieces back. But even when we do, it’s very, very important that we pitch better from a starting pitching standpoint. The pitch counts have basically gone through the roof.”
Dan Uggla and Chipper Jones hit two-run homers, Jordan Schafer had four hits and Jair Jurrjens earned his NL-leading 12th win for the Braves, who have won eight of their past nine.
“I don’t know how to sugarcoat it; we’re in a tough spot,” Tracy said. “We’re a little bit undermanned right now. That’s an awfully good team on the other side of the field to be competing against when you’ve got key personnel that are not available. And so you do the best you can.
“I know we got the hell beat out of us, but we did the best we could do.”
Cook struggled early in his sixth start after breaking a finger in spring training and missing the first two months of the season.
Schafer led off with a triple past Charlie Blackmon in centre field. Alex Gonzalez drove in Schafer with a single to right before scoring on Brian McCann’s double to centre. With two outs, McCann scored on Eric Hinske’s single for a 3-0 lead.
Cook (0-4) gave up 10 hits and seven runs in five-plus innings. He was pulled after giving up singles to Hinske and Uggla in the sixth.
Rex Brothers walked Nate McLouth to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Jason Heyward’s double play grounder drove in Hinske before Schafer’s single to centre pushed the lead to 7-1.
“I feel bad because I’ve been letting the team down,” Cook said.
“The most aggravating part is, I feel really good. It’s just a matter of harnessing everything and making quality pitches from the get-go and not having to play catch-up. I’m putting our team in a big deficit. It’s hard for them to come back and mount a rally when I’ve put them in a hole like that.”
Uggla had two hits and a walk to lift his batting average to .183. He has 14 homers, but has struggled overall in his first season in Atlanta.
“My teammates have picked me up, but I’m not going to lie, I’ve had some low moments,” Uggla said.
“They’ve picked me up enough. It’s time for me to start picking them up.”
The Braves moved within three games of first-place Philadelphia in the NL East after the Phillies lost to Florida 7-6 in 10 innings.
Jurrjens (12-3) allowed one run and five hits and two walks in six innings. He has allowed no more than one run in four straight starts, leaving his NL-leading ERA at 1.87.
“He was good. Maybe not as good as we’ve seen him,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez of Jurrjens.
The Braves scored three runs in the first off Cook before Jones’ homer in the third pushed the lead to 5-0.
Before the game, Jones said a cortisone shot in his right knee after Sunday’s game did not provide much relief for the discomfort he has felt much of the season.
He found more pain in the first inning when he fouled a ball off his right ankle and immediately fell in the batter’s box. Jones slowly got up and appeared to be favouring the ankle when he ran to first base on his ground out to second.
Jones’ reward for remaining in the game came in the third when his fly ball barely cleared the left-field wall for his eighth homer.
Ian Stewart doubled and scored on Matt Pagnozzi’s single in the fifth for Colorado’s only run.
Jurrjens took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his 4-0, one-hit shutout of Baltimore on Friday night. He also was strong early against the Rockies, recording 10 straight outs before giving up Jonathan Herrera’s single with one out in the fourth. Herrera moved to third on Ty Wigginton’s infield hit before Seth Smith ended the inning with a fly ball to left.
Scott Linebrink struck out Wigginton with the bases loaded to end the seventh.
NOTES: The Rockies have six straight road losses. … OF Martin Prado, recovering from a staph infection in his right calf, began his minor league rehabilitation with Triple-A Gwinnett at Charlotte. Prado could return to the Braves after the All-Star break. … Jones hit his first homer since June 16.
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