Wednesday, July 8, 2009

De La Rosa Smells Like A Rose In Sweep of Nationals

One clear sign that the Rockies are a whole different team than they were in April and May can be found after the ballgame on Wednesday.

The Rockies completed a three game sweep of the Nationals, thumping them 10-4 in the finale. Despite the three game sweep, something the eluded them for the first two months of the season, the feeling that the Rockies gave was that they were not satisfied with the way they played.

The Nationals are a team that is clearly inferior to the Rockies. They have less talent and they play incredibly sloppy baseball, often times looking like a little league team throwing the ball around.

However, they are still a Major League team, and have the ability to win games. This was evidenced in their series win late last month against the Yankees at the new stadium.

Yet, after two games in which the Rockies barely scraped out wins, manager Jim Tracy held a team meeting to get things in line. It was only 10 minutes, but the message was clear. The offense was trying to do too much at the plate. Everyone was swinging for the fences instead of looking for opportunities to hit the ball the other way or move a runner over.

The offense responded on Wednesday blasting the Nationals for 14 hits and 10 runs. While the offense looked great, it was all for show as fifth starter Jorge De La Rosa once again proved that he belongs in the rotation. De La Rosa pitched brilliantly, going 6-1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits, striking out five and walking three.

De La Rosa’s numbers are not indicative of the game that he pitched. The three runs were all scored in the seventh inning after fatigue had set in. De La Rosa was removed after recording an out in the seventh and then loading the bases. Josh Fogg relieved him and gave up a hard-luck infield single that plated two runs.

De La Rosa has his critics, a group that this scribe has often fallen into, but on Wednesday he reeled off another impressive pitching performance.

In the past the hard-throwing lefty has been prone to the big inning. His talent has never been in doubt, but his confidence wavered. He would give up a couple of hits, or walk a batter on a pitch that he felt was in the zone and the frustration would get to him. It was easy to read in De La Rosa’s body language that he had lost his focus. When that happened his mechanics broke down and his arm dragged behind his body, creating pitches that were up in the zone, a spot that a pitcher cannot miss in the big leagues.

June and July have been different for the pitcher. He is finding his groove, his only flaw came against a phenomenal hitting Tampa Bay team. In his last five starts De La Rosa is now 4-1, with an ERA under five. The ERA may not seem all that impressive, but the fact that he has been able to keep his composure long enough to keep his team in the game is what is impressive.

While De La Rosa has stuff that arguable make him a potential front of the rotation starter, his mind has kept him from achieving anything more than being a number five, or a long man in the bullpen. With his talent, and the way that he has been throwing for the Rockies, having him in the fifth spot in the rotation is a very good thing.

The Rockies thought going into the season that they had two or three really good starters. With De La Rosa and Jason Hammel pitching the way they have been, and Franklin Morales finding himself and earning a call-up, the Rockies pitching staff is leading the team to a level where they feel that they are going to have a chance to win every single day, something that will keep them in contention in the standings deep into the season.

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