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Rockies’ Antonio Senzatela in complete control in strong bounce back performance

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Just one opposing hitter reached second base in a stellar outing by the rookie righty.

DENVER—The keys to success on Friday for Antonio Senzatela were simple: command the fastball, mix in secondaries effectively. Eight scoreless innings and a Colorado Rockies victory later, it’s safe to say that the young right-hander accomplished his goal.

Senzatela kept St. Louis Cardinals hitters off balance all night in what was a close game that eventually snowballed into a 10-0 laugher in favor of the Rockies. The major reason for his success? Fastball command and a few timely sliders.

“Right away we saw pitch efficiency,” Rockies manager Bud Black said after the game. “The ball-strike ratio was great.”

Senzatela threw 64 of 98 pitches for strikes and didn’t walk a batter. He managed only three strikeouts, but four double plays and 11 ground-ball outs contributed to the Cardinals reaching second base only once and Senzatela facing just one batter over the minimum.

“He kept the ball down to induce some double plays and got [them] on some good breaking balls — I think all of them were on breaking balls,” Black said. Senzatela confirmed as much after the game, and noted that he threw only two changeups in an approach that, with the help of catcher Tony Wolters, was scaled down from his last couple outings.

“I just tried to keep it simple and throw the fastball down and work in the slider,” Senzatela said. “Tony did a good job with that.”

“He pitched well,” Black added about Senzatela. “He threw strikes with the fastball, where I think in the previous couple the fastball was just a little bit off.”

Even with the dominant performance from the 22-year-old rookie, the Rockies weren’t exactly assured of a win through seven and a half innings. Charlie Blackmon and Mark Reynolds delivered run-scoring hits to give the Rockies a 2-0 lead against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez, but the St. Louis hurler was in good form himself, striking out nine through 7 13 innings.

“He’s a good pitcher, Martinez,” Black said. “He’s real. He’s got a live arm. You saw some of the velocities there late in the game.”

Martinez’s final pitch registered at 95 mph, but it was deposited into the right-field seats by Blackmon to give the Rockies a 3-0 lead. It was one of four hits on the night for the Colorado center fielder, who finished just a double short of his first career cycle.

It was a stretch to think he’d even get a chance for fourth hit, but thanks to an eight-run eighth inning in which every player in the lineup sans Carlos Gonzalez had a hit, Blackmon got to bat twice.

On a 1-0 offering from Cardinals reliever Miguel Socolovich, Blackmon hit a scorching line drive into the right-center field gap. St. Louis center fielder Dexter Fowler got to the ball quickly, stopping Blackmon at first base. It looked like Blackmon might’ve had a chance to reach second but with a 10-run lead, he thought better of it.

“I knew what the situation was and when I hit it, I was thinking ‘double’ the whole way,” Blackmon said. “But you’ve gotta have some respect for the game, and that to me is not a situation where you try to stretch something into a double just for the sake of getting a double.”

Though Blackmon fell just short of history, Rockies fans greeted the eventual end of the eight-run, nine-hit inning with a raucous standing ovation. And for good reason: this is a team playing good, complete baseball. Hell, there hasn’t even been a mention of the terrific defense—particularly, strong glove work from Ian Desmond and Nolan Arenado, which saved Senzatela from having to deal with leadoff baserunners on two separate occasions, as Black noted after the game.

“In shutouts or well-pitched games, there’s always a correlation between that and good defense,” Black said. “Those plays helped Antonio stay in the game through eight innings and kept the pitch count down.”

“They make good plays all the time,” Senzatela said. “They’re really good.”

The end result was the Rockies’ fifth victory in their last six games, moving them to 32-18 on the season—and, for what it’s worth, giving Antonio Senzatela his seventh pitcher win of 2017, tying him with Clayton Kershaw, Ervin Santana, and Dallas Keuchel.

Senzatela is thrilled to be in such company.

“It’s good for me,” the early National League Rookie of the Year candidate said with an excited laugh. “And for the team, too.”

Extras

  • Jordan Lyles tossed a scoreless ninth inning, marking his second consecutive outing with no runs allowed.

“I almost walked a guy tonight, which would’ve been uncalled for,” Lyles said of his sequence against Kolten Wong. “But I got back into the count and continued to throw four-seamers. I gave up a line drive and luckily it was at someone. But a walk would’ve looked a lot worse.”

  • Gerardo Parra in the bottom of the eighth inning batted twice as a pinch-hitter, striking out and doubling. It was the 12th time in franchise history that a pinch-hitter has made two trips to the plate in the same frame. The last was Cristhian Adames on Aug. 6, 2016.
  • David Dahl (rib) isn’t sure what the next step is in his recovery, but he’s getting antsy to get back on the field.

“[I’m] just taking the steps in the process to get back to playing,” Dahl said after the game. “It’s been a long time. It’s frustrating.”