Braves win first game of doubleheader

By Tom Saladino

Editor's Note: The second game of the Atlanta-Colorado doubleheader wasn't completed by presstime.

ATLANTA ? Robert Fick hit a grand slam and found himself on the bench.

Fick homered in the first inning and had five RBIs, Gary Sheffield hit a three-run double and Chipper Jones had a two-run homer to lead the Atlanta Braves over the Colorado Rockies 12-6 Thursday in a doubleheader opener.

"It felt great. Anytime you hit a grand slam it feels good," Fick said. "Just the fact that it counted and got us out to a comfortable lead early."

Fick did not start the second game, giving way to Julio Franco.

"I'm ticked off," Fick said jokingly after learning of the lineup. "I don't think I'm in there."

Braves manager Bobby Cox told Fick before the opener that Franco would start the second game. Cox also rested catcher Javy Lopez and third baseman Vinny Castilla.

Atlanta led 6-0 after three innings in the opener, but Colorado closed to 7-6 with a four-run eighth. Jones then hit a two-run homer as the Braves scored five runs in the bottom half and went on to their ninth win in 10 games.

Atlanta has gone 18-3 since a 4-8 start. The Rockies have lost three straight and six of seven.

Colorado pulled within a run the eighth on four walks and a three-run double by Chris Stynes before John Smoltz came on and ended the inning by striking out Charles Johnson on a 3-2 pitch.

"We made a statement late," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We didn't go away. We didn't quit."

Todd Jones then walked the bases loaded in the bottom half, Sheffield hit a drive to the wall in center and Chipper Jones homered off Brian Fuentes.

Smoltz, who closed out the game, got his 14th save in 15 chances. The Braves have won in his last 66 appearances.

Shane Reynolds (2-1) allowed two runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings, leaving with what appeared to be a comfortable 7-2 lead.

"It got scary, no doubt," Reynolds said. "But nobody panicked when they got within a run. We're very confident in the guys we have in the bullpen. Those guys have done a great job."

Colorado starter Nelson Cruz (3-3) gave up seven runs, six hits and five walks in four innings. There were 17 walks, 10 by Rockies pitchers.

A crowd estimated at about 1,000 was on hand at the start of the doubleheader, caused by a rainout Wednesday night.

Andruw Jones hit a run-scoring single in the second, matching the team record of eight straight games with RBIs, and Fick's slam made it 5-0.

Fick added a sacrifice fly in the third inning, and Rafael Furcal hit a solo homer in the fourth off Cruz, who has allowed seven runs in each of his last three starts. He has given up nine homers in his last 19 2-3 innings.

"I made a couple of bad pitches, and they made me pay for it. In the first inning I didn't feel comfortable. After that, I was," Cruz said. "I couldn't keep it close. I didn't have it today."

Reynolds had a 7-1 lead and was working on a four-hitter when Preston Wilson homered leading off the seventh. One out later, Stynes doubled, bringing on Kevin Gryboski who retired the next two hitters.

Gryboski loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth by walking Jay Payton, Todd Helton and Wilson. Ray King forced in a run with a walk to Larry Walker, and Stynes doubled off Ramon Hernandez.

Notes: The doubleheader was only the second in the seven-year history of Turner Field. The New York Mets split a day-night doubleheader last Sept. 11. ... Eddie Mathews (1954), Hank Aaron (1955, 1957), Mike Lum (1978) and Bob Horner (1979-80) also drove in runs in eight straight games. ... Fick's slam was the second of his career. The first came on Sept. 27, 1999, for Detroit against Kansas City's Jeff Montgomery. He had five RBIs twice before, but not since June 10, 2000, for Detroit against Montreal.