Colorado Rockies: The starting pitching has buoyed early success

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Antonio Senzatela #49 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at Dodger Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Antonio Senzatela #49 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at Dodger Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

If there has been one constant in the first eight games of the season for the Colorado Rockies, it has been the quality pitching exhibited by the Rockies starting pitchers.

The one constant for the Colorado Rockies in 2020 thus far has been starting pitching. That was shown again on Sunday as Antonio Senzatela turned in a masterful performance allowing just four hits and one run (that was earned) with six strikeouts in an eventual 9-6 victory against the San Diego Padres on a sun-splashed afternoon at Coors Field.

"“It’s just the mix of pitches,” Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black said about Senzatela’s performance. “I think all of our guys (starting pitchers) are showing a change of speeds, in and out, up and down. They are pitching.”"

The outing for Senzatela, who has a 2-0 record, was his second solid performance of the young season. On July 28, the right-hander allowed six hits and two earned runs with three walks and three strikeouts in five innings pitched in the Rockies 8-3 win at Oakland.

In compiling a 6-2 record to open the 2020 campaign (the team’s .750 winning percentage is tops in the National League West), the Rox starting hurlers—Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Jon Gray, and Senzatela—have combined to not allow opponents more than two earned runs in any of their starts.

"“I really see this as these four guys have pitched,” Black said. “They are not throwing. They are pitching.”"

Added the manager: “The pitchers are executing. So it’s really wonderful to see.”

Entering Sunday’s game, Colorado starting pitchers’ earned run average of 2.08 was best in the Major Leagues. “We just help each other,” Senzatela said about the camaraderie that has developed among the Rockies starting pitchers. “We communicate about the hitters. That works for us.”

Following Senzatela’s gem on Sunday (he tossed five scoreless innings before surrendering his lone run in the sixth to drop his ERA to 2.45), the ERA of Rox starters dropped to 2.00 (45 innings pitched, 10 earned runs). It’s a good bet that mark will still be tops in the Majors come Monday.

While the Colorado starting mound corps is talented, the likelihood that the starters can maintain an ERA near 2.00 on the mound for the remainder of the regular season—even a virus-shortened 60-game regular season—is not plausible. But the importance of the Rockies starters continuing to perform at a high level becomes imperative when you take a look at the results of the recently concluded Padres series, along with a couple of other developments from this weekend.

While the Rockies captured two of three games against the Padres, it could easily have been a Colorado sweep. Leading 5-4 in the ninth inning of Game 1 on Friday, Rockies closer Wade Davis allowed a two-out, game-tying home run to Fernando Tatis Jr.

Davis, who had picked up two saves on the team’s season-opening five-game road swing to Texas and Oakland, then surrendered what proved to be a game-winning three-run homer to Tommy Pham. Despite a two-run rally by the Rockies in the bottom of the ninth, the home team suffered a disappointing 8-7 defeat to open the series with San Diego.

In the series finale on Sunday, flanked by Senzatela’s stellar outing and a 12-hit attack that featured three home runs, Colorado raced to a seemingly comfortable 9-1 lead after seven innings.

But San Diego erupted for five runs on six hits against Rox relievers James Pazos and Carlos Estevez in 1.2 innings to pull within 9-6. Jairo Diaz had to come in from the Rockies bullpen to put out the fire and to preserve the win.

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Fortunately, Colorado had enough cushion to withstand the late onslaught by the Padres against Rox relievers.

The Rockies bullpen situation became even more uncertain earlier in the day on Sunday when it was announced—as reported by our Noah Yingling—that Davis had been placed on the 10-day injured list with a right (pitching) shoulder strain and fellow reliever Scott Oberg had been transferred to the 45-day IL with blood clots in his right (pitching) arm.

Oberg was battling back this year from a blood clot in his right arm that ended his 2019 season last August. Rockies manager Bud Black was hoping that Oberg would be able to return this season to the form that has produced earned run averages of 2.45 and 2.25 in the last two campaigns.

With Davis and Oberg on the IL, the Rockies will most likely move to a closer-by-committee and bullpen-by-committee approach that will include several new, young faces including Pazos, Tyler Kinley, Phillip Diehl, and Yency Almonte.

Related Story. 3 things we learned from the San Diego series. light

With no Davis and Oberg, and plenty of inexperience in the bullpen, Rockies starters will be challenged to maintain their early success on the mound as the season unfolds in earnest in the next two months and Colorado seeks one of eight National League playoff berths.