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Must C Curious: Chacin mishandles throw from catcher

ATLANTA -- Sometimes baseball can be magical. Other times it's merely bizarre.

On Thursday afternoon, the Braves used sleight of hand -- actually Colorado's slight off hand -- winning on a play that happened so quickly that if you turned your head even for a second, you missed it. Just ask manager Fredi Gonzalez, who did just that.

"I was talking to [Tim Hudson], and I hear the commotion," he said. "I asked, 'How did he score?' I looked at the replay, he plain-out missed it. Thank goodness that Juan [Francisco] was heads up and was able to score that run."

Hudson threw seven shutout innings and Francisco alertly raced home on a mishandled throw back to the pitcher as the Braves snuck past the Rockies, 1-0, at Turner Field.

The win gave Atlanta a 4-3 homestand and raised its lead to 3 1/2 games over St. Louis for the first National League Wild Card spot. The Braves are five games up on Pittsburgh, which is on the outside looking in for the second Wild Card spot.

The Rockies dropped their fifth game in the last seven on the road, and their fifth in eight overall. Braves pitching limited Colorado to one run in their three wins in the series and held them scoreless over the final 19 innings.

Thursday's finale marked the second straight 1-0 game and once again saw runners all over the basepaths, but none -- save for Francisco -- were able to cross the plate. Atlanta went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, yet the one hit couldn't plate a run. The Rockies were 0-for-6. Atlanta finished the series 3-for-35 with runners in scoring position, which included one hit in its last 30 attempts. Colorado finished 3-for-28 and put up an 0-fer in its final 17 at-bats.

Second baseman Dan Uggla, whose second-inning, opposite-field double moved Francisco to third, said that even with the missed opportunities there was never frustration.

"When you show frustration you're showing a sign of weakness," he said. "It is what it is. If you don't get it done, you look for your teammate to pick you up. If he doesn't get it done then look for your pitcher to pick both of you up. Your defense to pick you up. Whatever it is, just constantly picking each other up."

Atlanta was able to pick up wins in the series' final two games, with both decided by an unearned run.

"We got a little bit lucky right there [with] how we did score, but we'll take them any way we can get them," Hudson said.

Hudson (14-5), who saw his 10-start unbeaten streak end in his last outing, had to work for the victory. He had only one 1-2-3 inning and put runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings. But he pitched out of every jam, allowing six hits while striking out two. He held the Rockies hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Hudson, who recalled seeing a game end on a missed exchange between pitcher and catcher, used a little bit of pitching magic of his own to frustrate the Rockies on a day he lacked a feel for his curveball.

"I started throwing a lot more changeups, a lot more sinkers, started elevating some four-seamers," he said. "A lot of those popups and fly balls to the outfield were four-seamers that I was elevating. It was just one of those games where I had to mix everything up, change eye levels. I wasn't overpowering by any means. I bob-and-weaved and smoke-and-mirrored them a little bit."

Gonzalez credited Hudson for more than just magic.

"He competed, man. He gave us everything he had," he said. "I don't know if we could have run him back out there for another hitter. He competed and we played some good defense behind him, which we usually do."

Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin (2-5) took the loss, despite allowing only one unearned run and seven hits over 3 1/3 innings.

Chacin surrendered just one run for his fourth consecutive start, but he has only a 2-2 record to show for the efforts.

Chacin was also directly responsible for the game's lone run. His inability to handle the throw back from catcher Wilin Rosario following a 1-2 pitch to Brian McCann in the second inning allowed Francisco to hustle home from third.

The inning was a testament to heady play all around. Francisco started the inning by catching Colorado third baseman Jordan Pacheco playing back and dropping a perfect bunt for an infield hit. Uggla followed with his opposite-field double. Then, following the 1-2 pitch to McCann, Chacin mishandled the throw. With no infielders backing up, Francisco raced home, sliding in safely.

The rest of the day belonged to the pitchers. After Hudson gutted and guiled his way through seven, Peter Moylan and Eric O'Flaherty combined for a perfect eighth before handing the ball to Craig Kimbrel, who recorded his 34th save in 37 tries.

"To win the last two games makes us feel good as a staff," said Hudson. "It's been nice to be able to squeak out some wins and let our staff have a little bit of time to put our chest out a little bit."

Jason Heyward and Martin Prado each had two hits for the Braves. For Heyward, it was his 35th multihit game. Prado had his team-leading 51st multihit game, one behind suspended Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera for the league lead.

Atlanta now heads to New York and Milwaukee, with a belief that things are starting to go its way.

"I'm seeing a lot of good stuff going on," said Gonzalez. "We just need to cross the plate a little bit more. But we're getting the opportunities, which is good."

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