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Braves done in by long balls against Rockies

Braves done in by long balls against Rockies

DENVER -- It had been more than three weeks since the Braves last lost consecutive games. Derek Lowe will most likely experience a much longer span before being uncharacteristically doomed by a pair of home runs again.

Lowe's most recent Coors Field experience was different than many of the others that he has encountered. But courtesy of the homers surrendered to Seth Smith and Carlos Gonzalez during the 5-2 win the Rockies claimed over the Braves Tuesday night, the result incurred by the veteran sinkerballer seemed all too familiar.

"This is the best stuff that I've had over the course of a game here," said Lowe, who is 1-4 with a 6.95 ERA in his past five starts at Coors Field. "I gave myself a chance here this time. The results were the same, but it wasn't the typical six or seven runs in four innings, where your team is out of the game.

"But you don't play for self gratification. You play for wins and losses," said Lowe.

As the Braves were tasting the bitterness created by their third loss in their past four games, they were at least encouraged that they kept their 2 1/2-game division lead over the second-place Phillies, who suffered a 16-inning loss to the Astros Tuesday night.

While losing a second straight game for the first time since Aug. 1, the Braves were doomed by the sixth-inning leadoff homer that Lowe surrendered to Smith. They were also frustrated by Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, who overcame the damage produced by Alex Gonzalez and allowed just two runs on six hits over seven innings.

"De La Rosa was as good as I've ever seen him," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

When it still looked like the Braves might be able to create their latest thrilling finish by erasing a one-run, ninth-inning deficit, Takashi Saito allowed a pair of unearned runs that came courtesy of Dexter Fowler's two-out, eighth-inning single. Saito would have escaped the inning unscathed had he not crossed up catcher Brian McCann with a third-strike fastball at which Clint Barmes swung and missed.

McCann's glove never touched the fastball that hit plate umpire Lance Barksdale and rolled to the backstop. The dropped third strike allowed Barmes to reach safely and also created reason to wonder if the All-Star catcher was having vision problems again. That fear was alleviated when Cox confirmed that Saito was supposed to throw a breaking ball.

"That was my mistake," Saito said through his interpreter. "I missed the sign."

After allowing three earned runs and seven hits in six innings, Lowe took solace in the fact that he hadn't been destroyed like he had been in many of his other starts here. The blows he took were swift and harsh. This marked just the second time in 10 career starts at Coors Field that he allowed more than one homer.

It was also just the second time in the 61 starts he's made for the Braves that he allowed two or more home runs.

"This is about as good as I've pitched here in a long time," Lowe said. "It's always been a tough place for me to pitch."

Lowe's primary nemesis in Denver has been Matt Holliday. Thus it might have been fitting that his most recent frustrations at this park began the two-run, first-inning homer delivered by Gonzalez, who now wears the No. 5 jersey that Holliday sported during his days with the Rockies.

After escaping a bases-loaded fifth-inning jam by getting Todd Helton to produce a two-out soft liner that found second baseman Omar Infante's glove, Lowe allowed Smith to deliver the crushing blow by drilling a belt-high, 1-0 fastball into the right field seats.

"The pitch to Gonzalez, I know he's a low-ball hitter, you've got to tip your cap," Lowe said. "Seth Smith, 1-0, the sinker was obviously not where you want it. But all in all, it could have been a lot worse."

All of Lowe's offensive support came courtesy of Alex Gonzalez, who drilled a two-out, second-inning homer and added a two-out, RBI single in the seventh inning. After Gonzalez drilled his second-inning homer, Lowe served as the only Braves player to reach base against De La Rosa over the course of the next four innings. His one-out, third-inning single went unrewarded and the potential damage created by the sixth-inning leadoff walk that he drew was erased when Infante grounded into a double play.

Infante began the evening with a leadoff single that extended his hitting streak to a career-best 13 games and then accounted for two of the four double-play groundouts induced by Rockies pitchers -- three by De LaRosa.

"It's one of the best [starts] I've had all season," De La Rosa said. "Everything was working good today. My fastball was good and I was able to mix it up with my other pitches."

Matt Diaz grounded into a double play that separated Derrek Lee's second-inning leadoff single and Gonzalez's home run. After McCann produced a one-out eighth-inning pinch-hit single off Matt Belisle, Infante kept the evening's theme alive by grounding into yet another double play

"We came up hitting for him, but then we'd go and ground into a double play," Diaz said. "I guess it started in the first. I continued it in the second and the trend continued throughout the course of the game."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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