Senzatela Anchoring Rotation in Rockies Recent Resurgence Into Post-Season Race

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Antonio Senzatela suffered through the worst start of his career in Pittsburgh on May 23.

Was that bad night actually a good moment for the Rockies?

Was it the wake-up call Senzatela needed?

There certainly is reason to believe that.

With Friday's 5-1 victory against the Mets and 2018 Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, Senzatela has not only won his last three starts, but he has made a quality statement each time out, fitting in nicely behind German Marquez and Jon Gray in a rotation that needed a lift after the struggles of last year's anchor, Kyle Freeland, who eight days ago was optioned to AAA Albuquerque.

The Rockies go into Saturday having won 13 of their last 17 games, having finally eliminated the stench of a 3-12 start to the season, and moving within a half-game of the second NL wild-card spot. That Pittsburgh nightmare -- eight runs in 3 1/3 innings -- did come three games into the Rockies current surge, but a headache like that is quickly relieved when the response is three consecutive quality starts, including two at Coors Field, where he allowed three earned runs in 12 innings of wins against the D-backs and Blue Jays.

And on Friday night, he shut down the Mets in a six-inning effort in which he didn't strike out a batter.

“All I have on my mind is to get people out. I did it (Friday),” Senzatela said. “I didn’t get a strikeout, but I got a quality start for my team. I gave the team a chance to win. ... Before the game … when I was warming up, on the other side was deGrom,” Senzatela said. “He threw a good game. He is a good pitcher. I was given a chance to win a ballgame and I did it.”

There is a sense that Senza, as his teammates call him, has learned to control the emotions of a potentially big inning for the opposition.

“There is a composure element that we are seeing, and there is an element where, when some pitches have to be made, he’s getting that out,” Black said. “That’s critical and it happened a couple of times (Friday).”

The rotation has been critical in the Rockies resurgence, although the earned run average for the 17 games has been skewed a bit by that Senzatela game in Pittsburgh and a few of those old-fashioned Coors Field explosions.

The Rockies did get a big lift on Thursday when they avoided being swept by the Cubs with an impressive seven-inning big-league debut by Peter Lambert.

Lambert got the call to take the rotation spot of Freeland, who the Rockies are expecting will respond to a period in Albuqerque and regain the domination he showed a year ago. He, however, continued to struggle after a brillant effort on Opening Day, including being on the mound for two of the four losses in the Rockies last 17 games.

German Marquez remains the ace of this year's rotation, even though after three quality starts to kick off the recent surge he did have a night to forget in Chicago earlier in the week.

Just as important has been the maturing of Jon Gray, who has avoided the problems of a year ago when he too often let a game get out of hand. He goes into Saturday's start against the Mets having started three Rockies wins in his first three starts in the 17-game Rockies surge.

The X-factor is Jeff Hoffman. Called up when Tyler Anderson went on the injured list for what is expected to be at least season-ending knee surgery, Hoffman has seen the Rockies win two of his three starts.