ATLANTA -- The thread by which the Rockies' hopes to remain in contention stretched even thinner and more brittle on Tuesday night.
Juan Nicasio had spent three starts before Tuesday giving substance to the Rockies' hopes that he'll develop into a dominant pitcher. But on Tuesday night, the National League East-leading Braves peppered him for eight runs and 10 hits, including the first of two Freddie Freeman homers and Brian McCann's three-run shot, as the Rockies fell, 11-3, at Turner Field in front of 28,107.
The Rockies (51-57) will continue to spend each day hoping for the turnaround that can somehow propel them into contention in the National League West. But everything must go right. It hasn't the last two nights. It rarely does agains the Braves. Since the start of 2011, the Rockies are 3-14 against the Braves, including 1-9 at Turner Field.
"Every day I go to the park, I think about their players and our players, and compare the players, and there's no difference," said rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado, whose two-run homer in the second gave the Rockies a 3-1 lead that didn't last. "The difference is the good players are bringing everything consistently and we aren't. Once we do, we're going to be one of the better teams. It's consistency."
Nicasio had given up one run and struck out 15 against four walks in his previous 19 innings. But on Tuesday, he was pounded.
"I feel good," Niasio said. "It was a bad game. Everybody has a bad game. I'll work hard for next time."
The worst inning was the fourth, when he entered with a 3-2 lead and gave up six runs, all with two outs. All but one of the six hits against him, including Evan Gattis' back-breaking two-run single and the McCann blast for an 8-3 deficit, came with two down.
Nicasio leaped in frustration on the mound after Gattis lined his hanging slider past lunging shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
"I threw a breaking ball and hung it on that base hit," Nicasio said. "I tried, but that pitch was up in the zone. It was really bad."
Catcher Wilin Rosario said Nicasio, with some success on his stat sheet, should rebound.
"He's good and he threw a lot of pitches in the strike zone," Rosario said. "He threw strikes and they hit them. Like I say, they've got confidence. We've got confidence, too, but sometimes the days are like this."
Carlos Gonzalez's first-inning sacrifice fly and Arenado's two-run homer in the second -- his ninth homer, and second in two nights -- off Braves starter Alex Wood (1-2), gave the Rockies a 3-1 lead.
But Wood, a former standout nearby at the University of Georgia, dominated in his third career start and 18th appearance. He held the Rockies to three runs in seven innings and struck out seven.
"It was hard to pick up his windup," Arenado said. "His changeup was really good, and when he threw the fastball in, he missed way in or he hit in the spot. The only time he was over the plate with the inside fastball was the one I hit."
Freeman's first inning homer -- he added a three-run shot in the seventh off Edgmer Escalona -- was just the second homer and second run off Nicasio since July 12, when he returned from a two-start demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Then poor location and hot Braves hitting ruined his night.
"We've had a tough time staying away from the big inning in the first two games of this series," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "Last night, we couldn't put away the game and we couldn't put away that inning.
"They didn't miss any mistakes, and with Juan it's all about where you throw it. You leave the ball in the middle of the plate, and he got some sliders up. That's what happens when a club like that is swinging the bat well."
A mini-rally fizzled because of strong Braves defense in the seventh. Rosario doubled to left-center off Wood with one out and Michael Cuddyer at first. The rebound off the wall eluded Jason Heyward, but he picked the ball up and fired to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, whose pinpoint throw to the plate allowed McCann to sweep-tag Cuddyer.
That was the kind of play the other team makes when a club is going poorly. The Rockies finished the pre All-Star break schedule by splitting four games against the Dodgers. But the Rockies are 5-7 in the second half, having produced just 5-5 in a key homestand, while the first-place Dodgers have continued their sizzling ways.
"We just all have to work together," Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler said. "Sometimes the pitching is good and the hitting isn't good, and vice versa."
The Braves, winners of five straight, have not been fazed by early deficits against the Rockies in the first two games of the four-game series.
"It seems like we get a couple guys on and we're always one swing away," said Freeman, who improved his season homer total to 13, and his career numbers to .325 with 10 home runs, five doubles and 23 RBIs in 20 games against the Rockies. "We've just got to keep grinding. We're never out of it. We've got nine innings. We're not going to get down."
The game marked the second career relief appearance -- first since Oct. 3, 2010 -- for left-hander Jeff Francis, the one-time ace of the Rockies' staff. Francis was charged with two runs and three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Francis struck out three. Two of the runs on Freeman's second homer were charged to him.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.