ATLANTA | A routine part of the game, something every pitcher from Little League to the big leagues does without even thinking.
Throw the pitch, catch the ball when it’s tossed back.
Jhoulys Chacin messed up that simple task, handing the Atlanta Braves another unlikely win.
Led by seven scoreless innings from Tim Hudson, the NL wild-card leaders posted their second straight 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies, winning both times with an unearned run. It was the first time in more than 28 years that a team triumphed that way in back-to-back games.
“It’s one of those crazy things, but baseball is a crazy game. A lot of weird things can happen,” Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. “As long as you’ve got more runs at the end of the game, that’s all that matters.”
Juan Francisco, not exactly a speedy player, used his legs to score the only run in the second. First, he surprised the Rockies when he dropped down a bunt leading off the inning, reaching first easily. Uggla followed with a ground-rule double down the right-field fence, actually getting a bad break when the ball hopped over the fence. Francisco likely would’ve scored, but he had to stop at third.
As it turned out, he scored anyway on a play that was even more stunning than his bunt.
After a pitch to Brian McCann, Chacin (2-5) dropped a routine return throw from catcher Wilin Rosario. Chacin seemed to glance over toward third before making the grab, the ball bouncing off the side of his glove and winding up between the mound and second base. Francisco alertly spotted the miscue and took off for the plate, making it with a headfirst slide.
“I thought I got it and I put my head down and I just missed it. It’s inexcusable,” Chacin said. “It’s really embarrassing. It’s something normal we do all the time. … It’s too late now, but we’ll learn from that. You see what happened. We lost the game because of that one play.”
Indeed, that one play was enough for Hudson (14-5), who stranded eight Colorado runners. Peter Moylan and Eric O’Flaherty combined on a scoreless eighth, then Craig Kimbrel got the final three outs for his 34th save.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were the last team to win consecutive 1-0 games with unearned runs, pulling it off against the Cincinnati Reds on July 28-29, 1984, according to STATS LLC.
“The game boils down to a throw-back to the pitcher,” Colorado manager Jim Tracy said. “I don’t know what the hell happened on the throw back. All I saw was the ball rolling off behind the mound and here comes Juan Francisco running to the plate. I couldn’t believe it.”
Both teams squandered all sorts of chances to push across more runs, stranding nine runners apiece.
The Rockies’ best chance against Hudson came in the third, when Dexter Fowler and Josh Rutledge led off with singles. Jordan Pacheco grounded out, moving the runners to second and third, but Rosario popped out to the shortstop and Tyler Colvin was thrown out after hitting a little squibber in front of the plate.
Atlanta was even more wasteful. The Braves loaded the bases with no outs in the third, only to come up empty. Francisco struck out, Uggla flied out to left — too shallow to bring home the run — and Brian McCann popped out to shortstop, dropping his head in disgust as soon as the ball left his bat.
In the fourth, Atlanta loaded the bases again, this time with one out. Same result. Jason Heyward flied out to shallow left, throwing down his bat in frustration, before Freddie Freeman popped up harmlessly on the infield to snuff out another threat.
But the Braves will take a win any way they can get it. The previous night, they scored the game’s lone run on a throwing error. They wound up taking three of four from Colorado — even after scoring just two runs over the final three games.
“To win the last two like we did is nice for the pitching staff,” Hudson said. “We can puff out our chests a little bit.”
Colorado rookie Jordan Pacheco went 0 for 2 with a couple of walks, snapping a 14-game hitting streak. Charlie Blackmon, on the other hand, went 4 for 4 — the second four-hit game of his career. But he also made a baserunning blunder in the second after doubling with one out. Jonathan Herrera followed with a grounder to shortstop Paul Janish, and Blackmon took off for third. He was thrown out easily.
Hudson was glad to get a helping hand from the defense. He struggled to command his curveball, which forced him to use more changeups and sinkers than he normally would.
“It definitely wasn’t my best stuff,” he said. “I smoke-and-mirrored them a little bit.”
NOTES: Braves SS Andrelton Simmons headed to Class A Lynchburg to complete his rehab assignment. He could rejoin Atlanta as soon as this weekend for the series in New York against the Mets. Simmons, the NL rookie of the month for June, has been out since breaking a finger in his right hand on a headfirst slide July 8. … RHP Rob Scahill joined Colorado’s expanded roster for the final month. He spent the entire season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, going 9-11 with a 5.68 ERA. … Kimbrel was lugging five large boxes around the clubhouse before the game. They contained a bunch of goodies he ordered for his teammates from the All-Star game. His fellow relievers got All-Star gnomes, while everyone else received a gray T-shirt. Kimbrel also ordered something for himself: a baseball covered in 24-carat gold.
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