Andrelton Simmons hit his first career grand slam as part of a seven-run first inning, and the Braves held on to beat Colorado 13-10 on Tuesday night.
Evan Gattis had a home run among his three hits and Freddie Freeman also homered for the Braves, who had season-highs of 16 hits and 13 runs but had to sweat out a win in the late innings.
“Nothing surprises me in this ballpark,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I’ve been in this office in the same situation with a loss hanging over your head.”
The teams combined for 29 hits and neither starter made it out of the fifth inning. Rockies right-hander Juan Nicasio lasted just 3 2-3 innings and Atlanta’s Mike Minor left after giving up two hits to start the fifth.
David Hale (2-0) pitched 2 1-3 innings of relief for the win.
“I wasn’t making quality pitches early on and later on I felt like I was making better pitches and couldn’t get out of a jam,” Minor said. “They were scoring all night.”
The Rockies trailed 13-9 when reliever Jordan Walden walked the bases loaded with no outs in the eighth. One out later Shae Simmons came on and allowed a sacrifice fly by Justin Morneau but then struck out Josh Rutledge to end the threat.
Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth for his 18th save in 21 chances.
“Kimbrel was great,” Gonzalez said. “We score seven in the first inning and we needed a shutdown inning.”
Nicasio had a scary moment when he deflected a line drive by Justin Upton with his glove in the bottom of the first.
Nicasio fractured his neck and sustained a concussion when he was hit in the head by a line drive on Aug. 5, 2011. He missed the rest of his rookie season.
“That was scary. You definitely look at his past history and know what happened,” shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. “It’s something you don’t want to see. But Juan is a tough kid. I think he’s really over that.”
The Braves also had a scare when Upton gingerly ran the bases in the first. Gonzalez removed him from the game before Atlanta took the field in the bottom of the inning.
Gonzalez and Upton said it wasn’t serious and he could play in the next couple of days.
“I don’t know how it’s going to feel tomorrow but I’m optimistic it’s not anything too serious,” Upton said.
Wilin Rosario homered and Rutledge had three hits for Colorado, which has lost 10 of 11 and 15 of 18 to fall six games below .500.
The Braves jumped on Nicasio right away. Jayson Heyward doubled then B.J. Upton tripled and scored on a groundout. Four straight singles made it 3-0 and loaded the bases for Simmons, who went deep to center to make it 7-0.
“It’s a lot of fun, especially being an offensive player and being able to bat around and score a lot of runs,” said Chris Johnson, who had his second straight three-hit game. “Everybody’s in a good mood because everyone hit and did well.”
Atlanta sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning, and Colorado nearly matched it in the bottom of the frame.
The Rockies scored three times on Rosario’s single, Morneau’s sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk to DJ LeMahieu
Minor walked three batters and hit another and needed 38 pitches to get out of the first with a 7-3 lead.
“Me and Gattis, before we walked out we said we’re going to act like it’s a 0-0 game,” Minor said. “I couldn’t throw a curveball for a strike. They eliminated every offspeed pitch and fastballs, I was barely missing the plate.”
He gave his team an 8-3 lead with an RBI single in the third but then allowed two more runs in the bottom of the inning, including a run-scoring single to Nicasio.
It wasn’t enough for the right-hander, who left in the fourth after solo homers by Freeman and Gattis, who scored a career-high four runs.
Nicasio (5-5) allowed a career-high 10 runs and 11 hits. He has given up at least five runs and nine hits in his last three starts. His ERA has risen from 3.60 to 5.70 in the three outings, all losses.
“I didn’t worry about that line drive to me. I didn’t do my job today,” Nicasio said. “I feel bad for my team. They scored 10 runs I need to win this game.”
Atlanta scored three times off reliever Chad Bettis in the sixth to make it 13-8.
Braves Bits: Gattis extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the first inning. The Braves activated Walden from the 15-day DL and optioned LHP Alex Wood to Triple-A Gwinnett. ... Atlanta RHP Julio Teheran (6-3, 1.89) will face LHP Tyler Matzek, who will make his major league debut for the Rockies on Wednesday night.