|Jorge De La Rosa shined again for the Rockies on Tuesday.|
Don't look now, but after a tough stretch to start the season, De La Rosa is now 6-3. He picked up another win on Tuesday night in Philadelphia after going six innings and giving up just one run on a hanging slider to Darin Ruf. The home run was one of the few pitches that De La Rosa didn't put exactly where he wanted it.
The Rockies ace, and that is exactly what he is, went out and picked up his sixth straight win. He finishes his May with a record of 4-0. It may have been even better, but he had his last start washed out because of the crazy Colorado weather five days ago.
A good pitcher keeps batters off of the base paths. However, baseball is a difficult game, and batters on the other side are eventually going to get hits. A great pitcher is someone who can get into trouble, but keep his composure and work his way out of a jam, especially in a tight game that his team needs.
On Tuesday night, with his team mired in a slump and in desperate need for win and facing a very good pitcher like Cole Hamels, De La Rosa showed why he is the ace of the Rockies. In the bottom of the 3rd inning with the score still at 0-0, and the Rockies going on 23 straight innings of scoreless baseball, De La Rosa ran into trouble.
Carlos Ruiz led off the inning with a single to right field. Cesar Hernandez followed that with a single to right field of his own. Then, in a clear sacrifice situation, Cole Hamels laid down a bunt that was good enough for a base hit of his own, loading the bases with no one out.
In baseball, when a runner is at third base with no one out, he scores 90 percent of the time. On Tuesday night, the Rockies lefty shut down the Phillies inning and escaped without giving up a run. He got Ben Revere to hit a fielder's choice ground ball to first base, where Justin Morneau fired to the plate for the out, then he got Jimmy Rollins to loop out to Morneau, giving him two outs without any damage. With Chase Utley at the plate, it would have been easy to see De La Rosa's luck run out. However, the way he has pitched for the last two seasons, it isn't luck that is propelling him. He got Utley to fly out to left field, ending the threat.
In De La Rosa's last full start that wasn't washed away by rain, the first hit he gave up was a triple to lead off the 7th inning to the Padres Chris Denorfia. Not only was the no-hit bid over, but it looked like De La Rosa wasn't going to get out of the outing without giving up a run. Instead, he got three straight Padres out, without allowing the run to score.
De La Rosa still doesn't get the recognition that he deserves. It seems that great outing after great outing goes by without him being given credit. In time, Rockies fans will realize the pitcher that they get to watch pitch every fifth day. The lefty is a free agent at the end of the season and may be one of the most coveted pitchers on the market. At that point, the Rockies may wish they had re-signed him when they had the chance.
With De La Rosa on his game, it gave the Rockies struggling offense a chance to get their groove back. It finally happened in the top of the 7th inning when Wilin Rosario, who has been struggling more than anyone, came through. With two on and two outs, Rosario launched a first pitch fastball into the right field seats, chasing Hamels from the game and giving the Rockies something they haven't seen since Saturday--a lead.
This road trip is a benchmark for the Rockies. It will tell them if they are contenders or pretenders. The start of the trip had been nothing short of a disaster, and with Hamels on the mound on Tuesday, it could have become that much worse. Instead, De La Rosa gave the Rockies a reason to relax at the plate, knowing that they wouldn't need to put up six or seven runs to win.
If the club can somehow find a way to win on Wednesday, then make a decent showing in Cleveland, a road trip that looked like the match that would light the bonfire of the 2014 season could suddenly become decent, and something to build off of.
The key for the Rockies is keeping a winning mindset at the plate. On Tuesday night they did a very good job of taking good at-bats. While they weren't notching hits on Hamels, they worked three walks, two of which came before Rosario's blast. Working counts and not trying to do too much is a key for the Rockies. When they start to struggle, they seem to throw the plate approach away and become free swingers. If they want to get over the road hump, they have to take good at-bats and work counts.
The good news is, while they continue to look for the answers at the plate on the road, they have a guy like De La Rosa going every fifth day who can give them a chance to win.
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