If only Jorge De La Rosa could start every game at Coors Field. The grand master of pitching a mile high was at it again Wednesday night as he twirled eight innings of two run baseball and helped the Rockies improve to 46-8 in the last 54 games he's started at Coors Field. 46-8!!! Let that sink in for a moment.
What's most impressive about De La Rosa is the way battles in this ballpark. He's learned as well as anyone that you can overcome mistakes here and wait for the offense to pick you up. Watching his transformation as a pitcher as well as his comeback from injury in 2011 has been one of the best things about being a Rockies' fan over the last six years. He's gotten better and better at not getting flustered when things don't go his way and battling through obstacles for a good outing. He's even apparently learned to work well with Wilin Rosario, who helped him out offensively during a couple of plate appearances tonight which we'll get to in a moment.
This game is a great example of De la Rosa's maturation. He walked as many batters as he struck out in this one - three of each - but he routinely made the right pitch at the right time and got the Royal to ground into four double plays, which both frustrated them and limited damage. Just take the beginning of the evening.
First inning: Walk, strike out, walk, ground ball double play. Nine of the first 13 pitches he threw were out of the zone. Clearly uncomfortable, and working very deliberately, De La Rosa knuckled down and made a pitch to a hitter with power (Josh Willingham) with two men on and got a double play to get out of the jam. An inning that could have gotten out of control before most people took their seats instead ended with a zero on the board for the Royals.
De La Rosa's troubles weren't over however. Alex Gordon led off the second with a home run to put Kansas City on top 1-0, and two batters later, Alcides Escobar singled to clear out the pitcher's spot. It was very apparent De La Rosa didn't have it early, but instead of letting things spiral out of control, he just kept battling, and before you knew it he was getting better and better and better.
The Royals got their second run to take a 2-0 lead on a sac fly in the fourth, and after that, they had just one hit the rest of the way. This is a red hot team, with a tight division lead, in late August, playing in the most hitter friendly park in the majors, and they went quietly into the night once De La Rosa got his bearings. The Royals appeared listless, and by the eighth inning they had that look of a offense saying " Wait a minute? Shouldn't this guy be out of the game by now the way his night started?"
Of course, a win wouldn't have been possible if the offense didn't put some runs on the board, but as De la Rosa knows, that's pretty likely to happen in this venue.
The first run came in the fourth on a Nolan Arenado triple and a Wilin Rosario sac fly, but the really big blow came two innings later. A seemingly innocent bottom of the sixth began with Josh Rutledge flying out to right and Drew Stubbs striking out, but Nolan Arenado reached on a throwing error to keep the frame alive. From there, Danny Duffy struggled to record the final out of the inning. Wilin Rosario followed with a line drive single back up the middle, and Corey Dickerson refused to bite on pitches away and out of the zone which allowed him to easily draw a walk to load the bases.
This is where the game got funny....
Up to the plate stepped Matt McBride: If the Rockies had their way, he wouldn't have even been in the starting line up. But Michael Cuddyer is still bothered by a hamstring injury, and with McBride being right handed, he was the best option the Rockies had left for first base with a lefty on the mound.
As fate would have it, that lefty made a huge mistake on his first pitch to McBride, serving up a 95 MPH belt high inside fastball. McBride didn't miss it, and quickly deposited the ball into the left field seats. Just like that, the Rockies turned a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead, and just like that McBride was the offensive hero for the night.
With De La Rosa's eight innings, the Rockies were able to skip right over the unreliable part of their bullpen - which is everybody out there not named LaTroy Hawkins - and hand the ball off to the ageless wonder who successfully converted his 19th save in 20 tries this season with an uneventful 1-2-3 inning.
The Rockies will have tomorrow off before welcoming in the playoff contending Miami Marlins on Friday for a three game series which will wrap up this nine game home stand. In order for it to be a winning one, all the Rockies have to do is avoid getting swept.
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