Hinske's blast in 11th caps big Braves rally

Hinske's blast in 11th caps big Braves rally

Hinske's blast in 11th caps big Braves rally
DENVER -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez's blood pressure could reach sky-high levels if his club continues this recent trend of spotting opponents significant early leads before showing a sense of resiliency that leads to late-inning suspense and a celebratory conclusion.

But for now, Gonzalez will simply enjoy the thrills his club has given him over the past few days with a couple impressive comeback victories.

The task was nowhere near as tall as it had been two days earlier, when Atlanta had spotted Roy Halladay and the Phillies a six-run advantage. But the resulting satisfaction seemed to be similar after the Braves overcame a five-run, first-inning deficit and claimed a 9-8, 11-inning win over the Rockies on Friday night at Coors Field.

"When you fall down 6-0, 99 percent of the time to Roy Halladay, you're beat," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "Here, you're never out of it. I don't care how many you are down. If you're going to give up five, give up five in the first. That way you've got eight innings to kind of get it back."

Long after Tim Hudson had spotted the Rockies that 5-0 lead, the red-hot Eric Hinske preserved Atlanta's latest comeback with a two-run homer off Edgmer Escalona. The towering shot that sailed over the right-center-field fence provided enough cushion for Craig Kimbrel to allow a run in the bottom of the 11th and still notch his ninth save.

"It's awesome," Hinske said. "I'm happy. I'm smiling. To do something like that in extra innings is great. I've been playing for a while now and I've only had a couple walk-off home runs. But this was just as cool."

There was seemingly more drama involved on Wednesday night, when the Braves erased Halladay's early six-run advantage and the four-run, eighth-inning deficit they encountered before seeing Jones end an 11-inning game with a walk-off homer against the Phillies.

But these two games, played within a span of three days, had a number of similarities that extended beyond the fact that a deficit of at least five runs was erased. Chad Durbin got the win in each contest, and both were decided by a two-run home run in the 11th inning.

The Braves recorded 19 hits in both games, and coincidentally, both lasted exactly four hours.

"It's a good win to start off this road trip," said Hinske, who has 10 hits in his past 15 at-bats. "We're starting a long road trip, and when you lose those kinds of games, they're kind of demoralizing."

Freddie Freeman set a career high with his four-hit performance, and Hinske matched his career-best four-hit game for the second time since Monday. He had not previously reached that total since 2004.

Freeman began the Braves' comeback with the two-run home run he sent into the second deck during the third inning. The 22-year-old first baseman is batting .474 with seven home runs and a 1.644 OPS in his first 38 career at-bats against the Rockies.

The Braves erased their early deficit with a three-run fifth inning that was sparked by home-plate umpire Tim McClelland's decision to overturn his ruling that Michael Bourn's bunt attempt was fair. After Gonzalez rushed toward the plate to argue the ball had first hit Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez before going into fair territory, McClelland conferred with third-base umpire Marvin Hudson and reversed his ruling.

With his at-bat extended, Bourn followed with a single and then advanced to third base with a stolen base and throwing error. After Jones and Freeman followed with consecutive singles, Brian McCann chased Rockies starter Guillermo Moscoso with a game-tying, two-run single. Three batters later, Hinske gave the Braves a brief lead with an opposite-field double.

Hudson immediately rebounded after the first inning and had retired 11 straight before allowing the Rockies to tie the game on Jonathan Herrera's fifth-inning solo homer. Jones put momentum back in Atlanta's favor with his own solo shot off Matt Reynolds in the sixth inning. Four of the veteran third baseman's five home runs have given the Braves a lead.

"I was definitely confident," Hudson said. "There is usually always a crazy game here. There's hardly ever a pitchers' duel here. I knew if I could hold them to five and put up some zeroes, we'd have a chance to win."

Hudson issued a pair of walks to load the bases before his old nemesis put the Rockies on the board with a two-run single. Dexter Fowler capped the five-run first inning with a soft two-run single that fell in shallow center field.

Helton also delivered a sixth-inning leadoff double that put him in position to tie the game when the Braves narrowly missed turning an inning-ending double play on Tyler Colvin's one-out grounder. The Rockies first baseman now has 11 hits in 13 at-bats against Hudson at Coors Field.

"That's a good team over there," Helton said. "They swung the bats really well tonight, and their relief pitching has always been really good."

Hudson, who has an 8.04 ERA in five starts at Coors Field, allowed just one earned run and two hits in the five innings he completed after the first inning. His determined effort to keep the game close was preserved by Eric O'Flaherty, who recorded big strikeouts to conclude the eighth and ninth innings.

Instead of folding after encountering another early deficit, the Braves outhit the Rockies 19-4 after the first inning.

"Yeah and we won in [11] innings," Jones said. "That's kind of scary."

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