published Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Freeman reigns: Homers twice in 4-1 Braves win

Atlanta Braves  relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel closes out the Braves' 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies of a baseball game in Atlanta Monday, July 4, 2011. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel closes out the Braves' 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies of a baseball game in Atlanta Monday, July 4, 2011. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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ATLANTA — Chipper Jones’ sore knee forced Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to juggle his lineup and make rookie Freddie Freeman the cleanup hitter against the Rockies.

Freeman certainly looked comfortable in the role.

Freeman homered twice to drive in three runs, Tommy Hanson combined with two relievers on a four-hitter and Atlanta beat Colorado 4-1 on Monday night.

Freeman’s two-run shot in the first inning drove in Brian McCann, who singled with two outs off Ubaldo Jimenez (3-8). Freeman hit his 11th homer in the eighth off Matt Reynolds for his first career two-homer game.

“He’s been great,” Gonzalez said. “For a 21-year-old young man, he’s been able to compete in the major leagues, get better and help us win ballgames.”

Jimenez was facing the Braves for the first time since throwing a no-hitter at Turner Field on April 17, 2010. It was the first no-hitter in Rockies history.

Freeman hit fourth — McCann’s normal spot — for only the sixth time. Freeman has four homers and 11 RBIs in his last 11 games.

“It’s just one of those things,” Freeman said. “I feel like I’m doing the same thing.”

Jones had a cortisone shot in his sore right knee Sunday and might return to the lineup tonight.

Freeman, a left-handed hitter, said he was trying to go up the middle against Jimenez because “you don’t want to try to pull a 96-mile-per-hour two-seamer.”

Freeman hit the first-inning homer to left-center field and pulled his second homer of the game to right.

“He had an unbelievable day,” Hanson said.

Hanson (10-4) gave up one run on four hits and one walk in seven innings. He had six strikeouts while lowering his earned run average to 2.52. He ranks among the league leaders in wins and ERA but wasn’t selected to the National League All-Star team on Sunday.

When asked if he was motivated to show he deserved to be an All-Star, Hanson said, “Not at all.”

“I just want to go out there and execute the game plan and worry about our team,” he said.

Said Freeman: “He’s an All-Star in all our books.”

Jonny Venters worked around a walk in the eighth and Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save.

The Rockies were without outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who bruised his right wrist when he ran into the center-field wall Sunday against Kansas City. X-rays showed no fracture, but Gonzalez said Monday he can’t grip a bat.

Manager Jim Tracy said he wouldn’t rule out Gonzalez playing Tuesday.

The Rockies lost another star player in the fourth when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki left with tightness in his right quadriceps. Tulowitzki pulled up after grounding into a double play to end the half-inning. He leaned over in apparent discomfort near first base before walking slowly off the field.

Tulowitzki said he felt the tightness about halfway down the first-base line. He said he has had problems with the quadriceps before and didn’t want to risk a more serious injury.

“A game or three or four or whatever is better than months,” Tulowitzki said.

Jonathan Herrera replaced Tulowitzki at shortstop.

The Rockies scored in the fourth when Mark Ellis walked, stole second and scored on Todd Helton’s single.

The Braves pushed their lead to 3-1 in the sixth when McCann singled and scored on Jason Heyward’s double to center. Herrera bobbled the relay throw from Ryan Spilborghs for an error, and Heyward was not awarded an RBI.

The Rockies had only two hits before Herrera singled with two outs in the seventh. He moved to third on Seth Smith’s double past Freeman at first base, but Hanson ended the threat by striking out Ty Wigginton. The usually stoic Hanson slapped his glove on his way off the mound.

Rain started in the sixth inning and continued without an interruption of play.

The Rockies called up outfielder Cole Garner from Class AAA Colorado Springs. Garner flied out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning in his first major league at-bat.

Fredi Gonzalez said Atlanta outfielder Martin Prado, recovering from a staph infection, may begin a minor league rehab assignment today or Wednesday.

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