The Rockies didn't fare particularly well against some of the National League's worst teams on their recent homestand. Now, they'll be challenged on the road by one of the league's best.
After a 5-5 homestead against the Cubs (2-1), the last-place Marlins (1-3) and the last-place Brewers (2-1), the Rockies travel across the country to take on the first-place Braves at Turner Field.
The opener of the four-game set is Monday night, with Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa taking on Atlanta's Brandon Beachy, who is making his first start since June 16, 2012.
It hasn't helped that Colorado has been without All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez for three straight games because of a middle finger sprain in his right hand. He said it's something he will likely have to deal with for the rest of the year, and doctors said a trip to the disabled list likely wouldn't be much help.
"They thought about putting me on the DL, and I asked them, 'What if I rest 15 days and come back and feel better?' He goes, 'No, you go on the DL, you're going to feel the same way,'" Gonzalez said. "It's actually something that will take more than 15 days. But I guess I'm just going to have to play through it."
If Gonzalez does return to the lineup, he'll be up against Beachy in the right-hander's long-awaited first start since Tommy John surgery.
Beachy, who posted a 2.50 ERA in his last four rehab starts, will take Tim Hudson's spot in the rotation. Hudson had season-ending surgery to repair injuries sustained when Mets outfielder Eric Young Jr. stepped on the back of his ankle as the pitcher covered first base on Wednesday night.
"Obviously, it's going to be a little faster here than it has been in Triple-A, but there was definitely a moment where things started slowing down and I just felt in control no matter what the count, what the situation," Beachy said.
Beachy threw a bullpen session in Atlanta on Saturday.
"I'm really excited," Beachy said Sunday. "But what I feel right now is going to be a whole lot different than what I feel 24 hours from now, so I'm looking forward to it."
Braves: Johnson on fire
Third baseman Chris Johnson went 2-for-3 on Saturday night, 3-for-4 on Sunday and has hit safely in each of his last six games. He's gone 10-for-21 in that span.
He now leads the National League with a .338 batting average.
• With a 5-2 win over the Cardinals on Sunday night, the Braves moved to 6-5 over their last 11 games and 11-10 over their last 21.
Rockies: Francis joins 'pen
Colorado made a somewhat surprising move Sunday by recalling lefty Jeff Francis from Triple-A Colorado Springs to join the team's bullpen. Francis has spent his entire big league career -- almost all of it with the Rockies -- as a starter, but said he's adjusting to the reliever role after making a few relief appearances in Triple-A.
"I felt good when I've done it," Francis said. "Nothing has changed, really, I've been around the zone for the most part. I don't know what's ahead. I'm just doing what I can."
Rockies manager Walt Weiss likes having a second lefty reliever in his bullpen alongside Josh Outman. The only other southpaw reliever, Rex Brothers, is the closer with Rafael Betancourt on the DL.
"Jeff's been around, and he's got the arm strength obviously built up as a starter, so multiple innings won't be an issue for him," said Weiss.
• Closer Craig Kimbrel joined John Smoltz on Saturday as the only pitchers in Braves franchise history with three 30-save seasons. He added his 31st save Sunday.
• De La Rosa has been one of the Rockies' best pitchers this year, and threw his sixth scoreless start Wednesday against the Marlins. But he's 1-1 with a 7.24 ERA in two career starts against the Braves.