Braves can't hold nine-run lead, fall to Rox

Braves can't hold nine-run lead, fall to Rox

DENVER -- This certainly wasn't the way Braves manager Bobby Cox wanted to say goodbye to Coors Field. But it was only fitting that the last game he will likely ever manage in this offensive haven proved every bit as stressful as many of the others he's experienced here over the past two decades.

What seemed destined to be a lopsided victory evolved into what Braves second baseman Martin Prado described as "one of the hardest losses we're going to have this year."

Instead of completing what could have been their most impressive offensive display of the season, the Braves exited Wednesday afternoon's 12-10 loss to the Rockies with a sense of disbelief. There was no reason for them to think about how they had built a nine-run, third-inning lead. All of their thoughts were centered around the decisive four-run eighth that gave Jonny Venters further reason to dislike his first Coors Field experience.

"The outfield is so big here," Cox said after his Braves were swept at Coors Field for the first time. "They hit every gap imaginable here today. It's not the first time it's happened in this ballpark. You have a big lead and the other team comes back. We've done it ourselves. It's not pretty to see."

Venters had to live with the fact that he issued a pair of walks before Carlos Gonzalez delivered a game-tying, two-run single that was followed by the consecutive RBI singles by Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton off Kyle Farnsworth. But the rookie left-handed reliever, who suffered his only two career losses during this series, would have never been asked to complete two innings if Jair Jurrjens hadn't crumbled after gaining a 10-1, third-inning lead.

"It's not the stadium," said Jurrjens, who allowed seven earned runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. "We're all big leaguers. We need to make adjustments and make the quality pitches. I didn't do it. There's no way to make excuses. I didn't do my thing, and we lost. It's my fault that we lost."

Coors Field's expansive outfield might have helped Dexter Fowler deliver an RBI triple that was followed by Gonzalez's RBI double in a three-run fifth. But the inning and game might have looked much different if that frame hadn't been fueled by the six-pitch, one-out walk that Jurrjens issued to left-handed reliever Matt Reynolds, who was making his first career plate appearance.

"The pitcher wasn't even swinging, not even on a 3-2 count," Cox said. "It didn't look like it. Sometimes a pitcher can't throw a strike when they're like that. I've seen it happen when we're at the plate with our pitchers. That led to [three] runs. It was the turning point of the ballgame."

Jurrjens exited after allowing an RBI double to Seth Smith in a three-run sixth that was capped by Ryan Spilborghs' two-run double off Peter Moylan. Venters worked a perfect, 15-pitch seventh inning and then got himself in trouble by issuing Chris Iannetta a one-out walk in the eighth.

Venters might have escaped the eighth unscathed if second baseman Omar Inante had provided a feed that at least gave shortstop Alex Gonzalez a chance to retire the speedy Eric Young on a potential double-play ball hit to second with one out. But the Braves left-handed reliever had only himself to blame when he issued a two-out, four-pitch walk to Fowler to set the stage for Gonzalez.

"I felt good, I just pitched [poorly]," Venters said. "I was throwing balls, and I was throwing strikes that were right there over the plate."

When Infante extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games with a two-run, third-inning homer, every member of the Braves' lineup had recorded a hit. One inning later, Brian McCann marched toward his fifth career four-hit performance by producing a double that gave every member of Cox's lineup at least one extra-base hit. The last time that was accomplished was by the Expos (against the Braves) on July 30, 1978.

But proving to be an equal-opportunity provider, Coors Field allowed the hosts to conclude the game with their own offensive explosion. The Rockies scored the game's final 11 runs and limited the Braves to just two hits after the fourth inning.

"I don't know what to say," Prado said. "It was unbelievable. It seemed like every single ball they hit, they found a hole or hit it hard somewhere."

Long before Tulowitzki chopped his game-winner just out of Prado's reach, the Rockies saw their starter Esmil Rogers allow seven earned runs and eight hits in just 1 2/3 innings. Rogers, who was making his seventh career start, allowed Jason Heyward to spark a three-run first-inning with a one-out triple.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy was staring at disaster when veteran reliever Manny Corpas left in the third inning with a sore right elbow. But making just his fourth career appearance, Reynolds turned the tide by limiting the Braves to just one hit over three scoreless innings.

"After Manny Corpas had to leave, I'm engaging in conversation with [pitching coach] Bob Apodaca about which position player do we run the risk of running out there and hopefully not hurting somebody," Tracy said. "Then, offensively, here we go."

Tracy is destined to see other nights like this in his home ballpark. But as Cox heads toward retirement at the end of this season, he will never again have to deal with the stress created by Coors Field.

"It's a great ballpark, great city and good people," Cox said. "But it's a different ballgame here."

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