Craig Kimbrel set the rookie record for most saves before the All-Star break as the Atlanta Braves completed a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies. Kimbrel threw a perfect ninth inning, including a strikeout, to break Jonathan Papelbon's former record of 26 pre-All-Star rookie saves in 2006.
It originally looked like Atlanta would not need Kimbrel. Even though Tim Hudson gave up an RBI double to Jason Giambi in the top of the first and a run on a fielder's choice to Giambi in the first, Hudson had mostly smooth sailing in his 7 1/3 innings.
Hudson also had plenty of support in the bottom of the third inning, when the Braves scored five runs before making an out, knocking Juan Nicasio out of the game after just 2 1/3 innings.
Jordan Schaffer led off the inning with a ground-rule double to right field. Alex Gonzalez then singled to center to drive him in. After Chipper Jones singled to put men on first and second, Freddie Freeman drove his 13th home run to left-center. That was followed by a Dan Uggla double and a Jason Heyward RBI single.
Heyward also homered in the fifth inning, bringing his total to nine.
Things got interesting in the eighth for the Braves' pitching. With one out, Hudson walked Mark Eliis, which resulted in Fredi Gonzalez pulling him for the usually reliable Eric O'Flaherty. O'Flaherty proceeded to give up a single to Ian Stewart and a walk to Ryan Spilbourghs to load the bases. O'Flaherty got Chris Ianetta to pop out for the second out, but then threw a wild pitch which allowed Ellis to score. Todd Helton then drew a walk, which got Fredi Gonzalez out to the mound again to bring in Jonny Venters to strike out Ty Wiggington.
O'Flaherty not pitching like himself also brought the Rockies to within 6-3, the range needed for Kimbrel to pick up a save.
Kimbrel's strikeout in the ninth gave him 70 in just 40 innings. His 27 saves also lead the majors.
The Braves travel to Philadelphia to play the Phillies in a weekend series. An Atlanta sweep would give them the division lead, as they are only down 2.5 games in the division. Friday's 7:05 start will see Brandon Beachy (3-1, 3.23 ERA) and Roy Halladay (11-3, 2.44 ERA).Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, Jason Giambi, Jason Heyward, MLB, Tim Hudson