The red-hot Atlanta Braves look to break out the brooms on Thursday night as they host the Colorado Rockies in the finale of a four-game series at Turner Field.
Atlanta notched its sixth win in a row with Wednesday's 9-0 shutout. The Braves began their seven-game homestand by sweeping St. Louis this past weekend, and they've scored nine runs or more in each game of this series. They now lead the National League Central by a season-high 11 games over the Washington Nationals.
"I think everybody is just relaxed," said Mike Minor, Wednesday's winning pitcher. "Last year and in previous years, I've felt like there's added pressure with us trying to chase a team. Now everybody is chasing us and there's no added pressure. Guys are having fun. Guys are relaxed out there with the bat, and we're relaxed on the mound because of the way we've been playing."
Minor went seven innings and allowed only a pair of singles, although the offense was once again the headline on Wednesday. Freddie Freeman had four hits and drove in two runs, while Brian McCann delivered a three-run home run. McCann's blast was part of a seven-run third inning that broke the game open.
Atlanta has scored at least six runs in an inning in each game of this series, a feat the team has never before achieved in the modern era.
"This is not the kind of production you're going to get for 162 games," McCann said. "But this is what we're capable of. When we get hot, we're as good of a hitting team as there is in baseball. I hope we keep this momentum going for the rest of the way out."
Colorado's Tyler Chatwood was unable to get out of that disastrous third inning, as he exited after allowing 10 hits and eight runs (seven earned) in only 2 1/3 frames. The Rockies offense was held to five singles for the game, and defensively they committed a pair of errors.
If they hope to avoid a sweep, they'll have to do so behind Chad Bettis, who is making his Major League debut. Bettis was 3-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 12 starts for Double-A Tulsa before being recalled. Known as a hard thrower, the 24- year-old right-hander has battled injuries the past two seasons.
In addition, All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez could be looking at a stint on the disabled list after aggravating his sprained right middle finger in the fourth inning of Wednesday's game.
For Atlanta, first-year starter Julio Teheran yielded only two hits in seven innings of a 2-0 win over St. Louis on Saturday.
"I think that's the best game I've ever pitched," Teheran said after that game. "The command I had, I think that's the best I've had this year."
Teheran has posted a 3.07 ERA in 20 starts this season and has allowed only one run in two starts since the All-Star break. His emergence, along with Minor's, has eased some of the pain of Tim Hudson's season-ending injury a week ago. Teheran pitched seven strong innings in a win over Colorado in April.
Atlanta has won 17 of the last 21 meetings with Colorado, including 11 of 12 at Turner Field.