ATLANTA -- The tone was set early Monday afternoon for Tyler Chatwood. The Rockies right-hander's command struggles were evident from the start of the Labor Day matinee in Atlanta.
Chatwood issued a leadoff walk to Michael Bourn in the first inning, who moved around the bases without the benefit of a Braves hit and finally scored on a wild pitch. Chatwood never found his command, walking five batters in three innings, and the Rockies lost, 6-1, to the Braves in the opening game of their four-game series at Turner Field.
"I just didn't have good fastball command at all today," Chatwood said. "It's kind of tough pitching behind in counts, especially to a team like that. I didn't really have command and that was it."
Manager Jim Tracy said Chatwood's command struggles stemmed from a mechanical issue.
"There was no consistency to his release point, evidenced by the way he was spraying his fastball," manager Jim Tracy said. "You use 70-some-odd pitches in three innings, it's not a formula for success."
Chatwood threw 74 pitches in three innings. He allowed just two hits, but all five of the batters he walked came around to score. His poor command, combined with poor defense in the first inning, put the Rockies behind from the game's outset.
And with right-hander Kris Medlen pitching for the Braves, it was not a good position to be in. Medlen entered the game with a 28 1/3 scoreless innings streak and he extended it to 34 2/3 before Carlos Gonzalez scored on an error by shortstop Paul Janish in the seventh inning.
Medlen threw his second complete game in four starts and struck out a career-high 12 batters.
"A dominant pitching performance on their side of the field and you knew it coming in," Tracy said. "He's been throwing the ball terrific and he threw it terrific again today."
Dexter Fowler said Medlen had all of his pitches working Monday.
"He had late movement on his fastball and his changeup was probably his best pitch," Fowler said. "He just kept us off the chain."
Gonzalez went 2-for-4 and was the only player to record multiple hits against Medlen. He is hitting just .234 on the road this year, compared with .377 at Coors Field. With the Rockies at the start of a seven-game road trip, Tracy said he's hopeful Monday is a sign Gonzalez will have more success this week.
The Rockies had five hits, the same number of hits as the Braves; they just didn't have the advantage of five extra baserunners thanks to walks. Atlanta scored four of their runs before they had a hit in the game and needed just two hits to score two more times.
"I still don't know how we scored six runs on two hits," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But they didn't give us a chance to swing the bats."
After scoring two runs in the first, an inning that included two walks, a wild pitch and two errors on first baseman Jordan Pacheco, the Braves added four runs in the third. They took advantage of three walks issued by Chatwood and, like the first, all the runs were scored with two outs, capped by a two-run double from David Ross.
Chatwood said while his biggest problem was his poor command causing him to fight with himself, instead of making the pitches he needed to get out of jams.
"I think it was just one of those days," Chatwood said. "I think when they kind of happen you've got to fight through them and try to keep damage control, and I didn't do a good job of that in the third."
After Chatwood left the game, three relievers combined to throw five shutout innings. Right-handers Josh Roenicke and Edgmer Escalona combined to retire 10 straight Braves at one point.
Tracy said he was glad to see that kind of performance from the bullpen, but after allowing the Braves to jump out to a big lead, it was too late.
"It's just we allowed the game to get away from us, simply put," Tracy said. "Those types of games where you surrender six runs in the first three innings and you're facing a guy like Kris Medlen, you can't beat a starting pitcher like that. You just can't do it."
Teddy Cahill is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.