They tried to manufacture a run by calling for Charlie Blackmon to bunt. They survived the first blown save from their high-priced new closer. They wriggled away from a runner at third base late with two stellar defensive plays. And they played their first extra-inning game since 2016.
And after all that, the Rockies escaped with a 3-2 victory Saturday over the Braves at Coors Field when catcher Tony Wolters took a four-pitch, walk-off walk that scored Carlos Gonzalez with the bases loaded.
Gonzalez lined a one-out double to left field, after striking out in three previous at-bats, before Wolters watched three 98-mph fastballs and an off-center slider from Braves reliever Arodys Vizcaino land out of the strike zone.
“I knew he didn’t have a good feel with this fastball,” Wolters said. “I’m gonna take until I get two strikes and feel him out, because he doesn’t have good command.”
Vizcaino allowed three walks in the 10th, the first an intentional pass to Gerardo Parra, then another to Trevor Story from a full count. Vizcaino walked behind the mound in disgust, then charged back up to the rubber in a hurry.
“You could see the pitcher was losing it,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “His mannerisms changed dramatically.”
Colorado closer Wade Davis gave up two hits and a run-scoring single to Ryan Flaherty in the ninth as Atlanta rallied to tie. But he struck out Lane Adams to end the inning with runners still on second and third.
That set up a strange ninth inning. Wolters bunted into a single to lead off — “the most barrel I’ve seen this season,” he said — and pinch hitter Chris Iannetta walked. With two on and no outs, Blackmon, the National League batting champion, twice tried to bunt after meeting with third base coach Stu Cole before his at-bat. The second attempt popped into a foul ball out.
Black said Blackmon was suffering a tight back throughout the game and he was not going to let Blackmon swing. He was removed for the 10th inning and replaced by Mike Tauchman in center field.
“It was a little bit tight for most of the game and kept getting tighter,” Blackmon said. He called it a “spasm” and said he was not injured. “I’ve dealt with it before and been all right. But a good win. A win is a win.”
The “school of hard knocks” for young Rockies pitchers, as Bud Black called it, took a recess when veteran right-hander Chad Bettis moseyed to the mound. Black positioned the senior member of his pitching staff between two budding arms in the rotation, not for an island of experience, but because he knows exactly what to expect.
“Chad between anybody is pretty good,” Black said. “There’s going to be a consistency to Chad’s games. I suspect Chad’s starts, if he makes all 33 or 34, there will be less variability in his outings.”
Bettis for the second time this season cruised through a crafty and professional outing, throwing 5 2/3 innings on 88 pitches while giving up just four hits. Freddie Freeman’s run-scoring double in the sixth, on Bettis’ final pitch, was the only mark against the 29-year-old.
Trevor Story belted a solo homer to left-center field in the fourth and Nolan Arenado singled in e Blackmon in the third as the Rockies (5-4) rebounded from a frigid loss to the Braves in their home opener Friday.
Sitting 89-91 on his fastball and working with quick efficiency, Bettis blew through five innings on 69 pitches. He allowed more than one base runner in an inning just once, in the sixth. And even his walks were harmless. After Dansby Swanson’s free pass led off the fifth, Bettis forced Flaherty into a spinning double-play from Ian Desmond to Story and back again at first base.
“Very crisp,” Black said of Bettis. “His fastball played.”
Bettis mirrored his season debut last week, when he gave up two runs on five hits in a victory at San Diego. Now in his sixth season, Bettis has become an unlikely sage in an otherwise youthful rotation. Colorado’s other four pitchers are an average age of 25 with about six years of combined serviced time.
The knowledge he brings, though, serves Bettis well. He threw five fastballs to Carlos Perez in the fifth inning, none topping 90 mph, then struck out Atlanta’s catcher looking at pinpoint 86-mph changeup to end the frame. And he was helped by Wolters in the sixth, after Wolters slid on his knee pads through the grass, then spun a diving throw to first to nab Ozzie Albies.
Mike Dunn, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee combined to throw the 2 1/3 scoreless innings, on just two hits. Adam Ottavino pitched a hitless 10th to earn the win. He was helped by a sprinting catch in the left field corner from Gerardo Parra, who was shaded toward center field against Freddie Freeman, and a leaping grab of a liner from Story to rob Nick Markakis.
Story’s homer was his ninth in just 16 career games against the Braves, and it was seen in person by Peyton Manning, who watched the game from a Coors Field suite.