Antonio Senzatela returned to the Colorado Rockies rotation with a splash on Tuesday night at Coors Field. The 23-year-old right-hander threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and striking out as the Rockies continued their home domination of the San Francisco Giants with an 8-1 shellacking in front of 48,072 fans.
It could have been a different story had it not been for Senzatela getting out of a first-inning jam. San Francisco’s Alen Hanson opened the game with a single and moved to third on Brandon Crawford’s two-out single. With the Giants threatening to grab the early lead, Senzatela went 2-0 on Pablo Sandoval … and then he did something that the Rockies have pushed for all of their young pitchers to do. He went with a changeup.
Sandoval popped his changeup up to Trevor Story, who cradled the catch for the final out. The inning and threat were suddenly over.
According to BaseballSavant.com, that changeup was one of 14 thrown by Senzatela on the night, third in his arsenal of pitches behind the fastball (61 pitches) and slider (17 pitches). It may not seem like a lot, but those changeups and their effectiveness were one of the reasons why Senzatela was so dominant in his return to the Rockies rotation.
"“”That might have been the most important pitch of the game,” Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black told Rox Pile and other media members after the win. “I think the changeup is a great pitch. Senzatela, (German) Marquez, (Kyle) Freeland, some of our younger pitchers with less than two years of service time, these fellas have tried to develop a change in the minor leagues.“It takes a little time for these fellas to learn this pitch but we’re adamant about it because we know eventually it’s going to come into play.”"
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It came into play on Tuesday night … and it was a break from the norm for Senzatela. Coming into the game, he had used the changeup just 0.3 percent of his pitches in 10 relief appearances in 2018 prior to being optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on May 3. It’s obvious it was one of the things he worked on while in New Mexico and perhaps one of the reasons why he put together a 2.15 ERA and 3-1 record in eight starts with the Isotopes.
"“I got a good result from it and I just kept throwing it,” Senzatela told members of the media after the game. “It was huge to get out of that first inning with a zero. Stranding those runners was huge, and I settled down quickly.”"
Colorado starters have been dominant in recent games. In Colorado’s last 11 games, starting pitchers have combined for a 2.99 ERA. That will make a difference in your chances at winning a Major League game … and the Rockies are winning right now, climbing back to .500 (43-43) behind Senzatela’s strong start.
If Colorado’s young pitchers can continue to perform the way they have and use the changeup as Senzatela did on Tuesday night, it’s a very good sign for a Rockies team trying to find its way back to the postseason for the second straight campaign.