05/21/09 12:06 AM ET
Nine-run fourth seals deal in runaway win
Escobar's three-run blast highlights big inning in rout
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Having scored 20 runs over the span of the past two days would normally provide reason to celebrate for a team that had totaled 19 runs during their previous eight home games. But instead of relishing in the 12-4 win that they claimed over the Rockies on Wednesday night, the Braves found themselves lamenting the fact that they'll have to spend at least six weeks without valuable utility player Omar Infante.
"It was a costly win," Braves manager Bobby Cox in reaction to the news that Infante broke his left hand when he got hit with a Manuel Corpas during the sixth inning of a game that had already turned lopsided.
Along with losing Infante's offensive capability and defensive versatility, the Braves will also be without the heart that he showed while beating out a two-out infield single during their decisive nine-run fourth inning. His hustle prolonged the inning for Yunel Escobar to say goodbye to Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa with an opposite-field three-run homer.
Escobar's shot into the right-field seats accounted for the only extra-base hit the Braves compiled during the eventful nine-run fourth inning that also included five singles, four walks and a hit batter. Most of the damage came at the expense of De La Rosa, who allowed the Braves to score their first run of the inning without putting the ball in play.
"We did a lot of things good tonight," Cox said. "We got some help with some walks and things like that."
With the first 20 pitches he threw during the fourth inning, De La Rosa issued three walks and hit Jeff Francoeur with a pitch. The lone outs he recorded during the inning came courtesy of Jordan Schafer's sacrifice fly and a sacrifice bunt provided by Javier Vazquez, who gladly accepted the offensive contributions that allowed him to cruise to his first win in five home starts.
"I love when guys score a lot of runs," Vazquez said. "When we score a lot of runs, we win ballgames."
While winning a second consecutive home game for the first time since April 12, the Braves saw Vazquez allow just one run and three hits. His 71-pitch, five-inning effort was abbreviated primarily because of the lead and the fact that the bottom of the fourth inning lasted a little more than 40 minutes.
Vazquez, who has allowed two earned runs or fewer during each of his past three starts, recorded five of his six strikeouts against the first eight batters that he faced. This relatively stress-free outing occurred in a timely manner; the 32-year-old right-hander had thrown at least 98 pitches during each of his previous eight starts this year.
"He didn't want to come out because he thought I would ruin the bullpen," Cox said. "I told him we wouldn't do that and we wouldn't ruin him either. That was a long time to wait."
Having scored just one run in their previous 18 innings entering Tuesday night's game, the Braves were impatiently waiting for this opportunity to provide their home fans a chance to enjoy some offensive production. During Tuesday night's 8-1 win over the Rockies, they matched their season-high run total in home games.
"We took advantage of some wildness on the other side," said Chipper Jones, who exited the game to rest after the nine-run fourth inning. "Somebody else didn't have their 'A' game tonight and we took advantage of it."
After De La Rosa exited after an 84-pitch outing, that included just 45 strikes, Matt Belisle walked Jones and then surrendered four consecutive singles. Francoeur tallied the third single during that span to provide him with his first multi-RBI game since May 1. The struggling right fielder produced the game's first run with a second-inning sacrifice fly.
Schafer accounted for two of the fourth inning's outs and also enjoyed a second consecutive two-RBI performance. Entering Tuesday night, the 22-year-old rookie center fielder had totaled four RBIs in his first 37 career games.
"It's getting better," Schafer said. "I feel like I'm starting to put good at-bats together. Even the balls hit foul aren't foul by much. I'm starting to put good swings on the ball. I'm starting to feel good."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.