The Big Chill.
The Rockies and the few fans who braved the elements suffered a long, frustrating day at Coors Field on Tuesday, one that exposed their fraying pitching staff to a hard, cold spotlight.
It began with a first-pitch temperature of 23 degrees for the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon. It was the coldest game in Rockies history, made even more frigid by a 4-3 loss to the Braves. It ended with the thermometer reading a balmy 27 degrees when the nightcap concluded with the Braves winning, 10-2, sending the Rockies to their third consecutive defeat.
The Rockies are now 0-5 against the Giants and Braves, two of the National League's premier teams, but first-year manager Walt Weiss doesn't see any reason to doubt his 13-7 club.
"I think we've played well," he said after the sweep. "I'm not going to get too caught up in the opponents. The bottom line is we have to come out and win a game tomorrow and salvage this series before we head out on the road."
The Braves and Rockies arrived at the ballpark Tuesday with sparkling 13-5 records — best in the majors. But the Braves, looking like the 1927 Yankees in long johns, smashed three home runs off left-hander Jeff Francis in the opener, and three off right-hander Jon Garland in the nightcap.
Atlanta's Upton brothers, B.J. and Justin, hit back-to-back homers off Garland to open the fifth. It was the third time they hit home runs in the same game this season, but the first time they've gone back-to-back. It was just the second time in major-league history that brothers have hit back-to-back homers. The last siblings to do it? Lloyd and Paul Waner for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept. 15, 1938.
"I have maintained this whole time, that if you don't make pitches, you are going to get hit," Garland said. "A lot of my pitches were up and got hit. And I was walking guys and putting guys on. It was just a bad night overall."
It was a bad day overall for Francis, who said he had trouble gripping his curveball due to the cold. Although Garland conceded it was a miserable night for baseball, He didn't use the cold as an excuse.
"I couldn't feel my feet after the second inning, and that's no fun," he said. "But you know what, you have to bear down. Both teams are playing in same environment."
The Rockies had pitched surprisingly well through the first three weeks, but the Braves made Francis, 32, and Garland, 33, look pedestrian. Suddenly, the Rockies' rotation is wobbling. Wednesday afternoon, in the series finale, the Rockies will start Tyler Chatwood, who was called up from Triple-A to replace injured No. 1 starter Jhoulys Chacin.
The beatdown was nothing new for Atlanta, which pummels the Rockies with regularity, having won 13 of its last 17 games. They are 8-1 against the Rockies over the past two seasons, including 5-0 at Coors Field. A three-game sweep last season — in which the Braves scored 29 runs — was the beginning of a 3-15 spiral for the Rockies.
Tuesday's games showed that for all of the emphasis the Rockies have placed on getting groundballs, Colorado's pitchers remain vulnerable to big lumber in their home park.
"This Atlanta club, you have to try keep them in the yard, and we had a tough time doing that today," Weiss said. "They ended up with six homers in two games. That's what they do. It's a quick-strike team and they hit the long ball. Jon got a few pitches up, more than he wanted."
The Braves lead the majors with 35 home runs — Justin Upton has 11 of them — and they've hit three or more homers in seven games. The are 7-0 when they do that.
Garland allowed six runs on 10 hits in six innings and walked four. Francis lasted just four innings, giving up four runs on six hits.
"Location is the name of the game for me and I've got to hit the glove," said Francis, whose ERA soared to 8.44.
Braves rookie catcher Evan Gattis, who once worked as a ski lift operator at Eldora near Boulder, greeted Francis with a solo homer into the left-field bleachers to open the fourth. That proved to be the winning run in the opener.
Asked if he's concerned about Francis' early funk, Weiss said: "Jeff knows what he's got to do and I have confidence that he will come out and do (those) things. He's got a plan out there, and he knows how to execute it. It's just a matter of executing it."
Wednesday: ATLANTA AT COLORADO
Braves' Tim Hudson (2-1, 4.50) vs. Rockies' Tyler Chatwood (0-0, NA), 1:10 p.m. Wednesday, ROOT; 850 AM
Rockies first-year manager Walt Weiss is trying to build a roster that can dominate at Coors Field. The Braves, who swept three games from the Rockies last season by scoring 29 runs, already have one. Consider cleanup-hitting first baseman Freddie Freeman. After going 1-for-3 in Atlanta's 4-3 victory in the first game of Tuesday's double-header, he is hitting .400 (14-for-35) in eight career games at Coors. Eight of his 14 hits have gone for extra bases, including four home runs. But Freeman's not the only Braves slugger who clobbers Rockies pitching. Justin Upton hit a solo homer in the first inning of Game 1, his 10th home run this season and his seventh at Coors Field in his career. Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post
Upcoming Pitching Matchups
Thursday: Rockies' Jorge De La Rosa (2-1, 2.82 ERA) at Diamondbacks' Trevor Cahill (0-3, 3.60), 7:40 p.m., ROOT
Friday: Rockies' Juan Nicasio (2-0, 5.31) at Diamondbacks' Brandon Mc- Carthy (0-2, 7.06), 7:40 p.m., ROOT
Saturday: Rockies' Jeff Francis (1-2, 8.44) at Diamondbacks' Wade Miley (2-0, 2.77), 7:40 p.m., ROOT
Sunday: Rockies' Jon Garland (2-0. 3.32*) at Diamondbacks' Patrick Corbin (2-0, 1.42*), 2:10 p.m., ROOT *entering Tuesday night