|De La Rosa's performance was critical on Sunday.|
De La Rosa was re-signed by the Rockies after the 2010 season, it came as a bit of a surprise. The left-hander had made a name for himself, and was probably one of the best three starting pitchers available in free agency that year. Instead of testing the waters, De La Rosa re-signed with the Rockies for two years, with two option years on top.
Obviously the move turned out to be a wise one. Before the end of May in 2011, De La Rosa was scheduled for Tommy John surgery. The procedure effectively ended both his 2011 season, and ate up all but three starts in 2012. With the recovery taking as long as it did, coupled with De La Rosa's reputation for having a fragile psyche, the general attitude of how he would fare in 2013 was far from positive.
As the Mexican-born lefty closes in on the two-year mark since his surgery, he is starting to show that he might be better than he was before the injury. On Sunday, in a game that capped off one of the most rare pitching weekends in baseball memory, De La Rosa danced with Rockies history deep into the 7th inning. With two outs, David Freese smacked a ball past Jordan Pacheco at first base, giving the Cardinals their first hit of the day and ended De La Rosa's shot at a no-hitter.
History clearly wasn't in the cards for the lefty, but the performance speaks volumes of the talent that the left-hander possesses. This is a guy who has the ability to shut down a top team when his stuff is on. He has the ability to be as good as nearly any pitcher in baseball when he trusts his stuff and pounds the strike zone.
On Sunday, the Rockies offense woke up as well, plating eight runs after going scoreless over the past 28 innings. No team has ever won a pennant in May. However, the importance of this win, and De La Rosa's performance, cannot be understated. Coming into Sunday, the Rockies were a team that had to look into the mirror and wonder if their hot start was a fluke. If they weren't questioning themselves, fans certainly were.
This Rockies team was built on the ability to mash the ball and win shootouts. They weren't built to win pitchers' duels. When the offense fell silent, this became a team that looked much like the 2012 team that was as bad as their record said they were.
If De La Rosa would have stepped on the mound and been lit up, or even just been mediocre, the Rockies wouldn't have just been swept in St. Louis, they would have been flying to Chicago as a team that had lost their way. Instead, De La Rosa put his foot down and gave the offense a game that they had no excuse not to win.
Of course, no May win is a huge win. However, anyone following the Rockies over the past few years knows just how important it is for this team to not continue the trend of sliding into oblivion in the second month of the season. Winning on Sunday put the Rockies in a position that if they are able to win a series in Chicago, against a terrible Cubs team, they can come home with a .500 road trip. At that point, the details of how bad they looked in the first two games against the Cardinals will be a distant memory.
While the Rockies recent play has led to some doubts in what this team can accomplish, De La Rosa's performance brings back a certain amount of hope. This is a Rockies team that has shown the ability to swing the bat. They have struggled, but keep in mind the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays had two no-hitters thrown against them, and a perfect game. Three times in one season they were unable to notch a single hit. That was a team that finished the season atop the American League East standings. It certainly was a team that could hit.
If De La Rosa can prove to be the type of pitcher he has been his last two times out, and Jhoulys Chacin can pitch like an effective No. 2 or No. 3 starter, as his pedigree suggests that he is, the Rockies have a shot to make a run at this thing.
If the Rockies keep things interesting, they may have to point back to their Mother's Day game in St. Louis as the point where they stopped the spiral. They may have to thank Jorge De La Rosa for giving them a chance to get out of their funk.
Things don't get easier for the Rockies. They face a bad Cubs team on Monday, but they face the best pitcher on that team in Travis Wood. Wood has given up more than two runs in just one start so far in 2013. He is sporting a 2.33 ERA, while pitching at a great hitters park in Wrigley Field.
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