Blackmon, Bettis beat down Braves on emotional night at Coors

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It was a misty night at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. And not because of the weather.

Before the Colorado Rockies' series opener with the Atlanta Braves, tribute was paid to the late, great, Don Baylor, the first manager in Rockies history. And things continued to get more emotional from there.

Chad Bettis made his inspirational return to the mound after beating testicular cancer. He pitched phenomenally well in his season debut, going seven innings, giving up six hits but zero runs. He didn't walk a batter and struck out two.

He didn't get the win, but he won the hearts of baseball fans everywhere with his triumphant return. The Rockies, by the way, did get the win, scoring three times in the eighth inning in a 3-0 victory.

Neither team scored until Charlie Blackmon led off the eighth with his 14th triple of the season and came in on the most seeing of seeing-eye singles from Gerardo Parra. DJ LeMahieu drew an intentional walk before Parra's hit and Mark Reynolds drew a walk of the unintentional variety to load the bases with nobody out. Carlos Gonzalez delivered the biggest hit of the game with a line drive single to center field, scoring a pair to put the Rockies up 3-0. Gonzalez has five RBI in his last three games. He is 26-for-his-last-81 which is a .320 batting average with 17 RBI over the last 21 games.

The very first batter of the game, Ender Inciarte, hit a sinking line drive to left that Parra laid out for. He probably shouldn't have, though, as the diving attempt came up well short and the ball skipped past him to the wall. But Parra jumped quickly to his feet, sprinted to the wall and fired the baseball back in as Inciarte's blazing speed carried him around third base, barreling for home. The relay throw from Trevor Story was right on the money and the first out Bettis recorded in 2017 was complete in just about the least predictable fashion.

Bettis gave up a tough-luck one-out double in the fourth to Nick Markakis on a ball that Carlos Gonzalez misplayed in right field, running in on a line drive that went over his head. He moved to third on a ground out from Kurt Suzuki and Danny Santana hit a ball that looked like it would sneak past DJ LeMahieu at second, but the Rockies Gold Glover made one of his signature sliding stops, spun quickly and recorded the third out to keep the scoreboard clean.

Dansby Swanson gave the Braves their second straight one-out double in the fifth but again Bettis stranded the runner in scoring position with a ground out to short and a fly out from Inciarte to left field.

The Rockies had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the sixth to break the scoreless tie with Gonzalez lining a single off the pitcher and Jonathan Lucroy drawing a walk to start things. Pat Valaika struck out to give the Braves an out and Bud Black made an aggressive move, pinch-hitting Nolan Arenado for Trevor Story. Arenado, of course, was on the bench after being hit by a pitch in Sunday's game against the Miami Marlins. After a long battle with Teheran, Arenado anti-climactically popped out to the first baseman in foul territory. Alexi Amarista struck out batting for Bettis and it went down as just another Rockies rally that went nowhere.

Mike Dunn pitched a clean eighth with a strikeout and Greg Holland was called upon to pick up his MLB-leading 35th save. He gave up a one-out single to Markakis and a two-out walk to Santana but otherwise worked a clean inning to snap a streak of two-straight blown saves. He is now 1-0 in save opportunities since shaving his head.

Colorado improved to 66-52 and will remain, at worst, in a tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the top spot in the National League Wild Card.

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