Senza stellar again vs. contending Padres

Murphy's pinch-hit, walk-off single pushes Rox above .500

August 30th, 2020

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander once again impressively handled the Padres on Saturday night, with seven scoreless innings this time. Of course, in 2020, nothing happens the normal way.

Senzatela’s three-run lead evaporated in the eighth, but the Rockies grabbed a much-needed 4-3 victory in the ninth on 's one-out, pinch-hit, walk-off RBI single off Craig Stammen.

Senzatela gave a lift during this mood-swinging time for Colorado, which was just recently on a 2-12 skid.

Friday’s 10-4 loss in the opener of the four-game series -- the first bad start of the season for lefty Kyle Freeland -- sparked memories of the fall from Colorado's 11-3 start, and had Rockies fans wondering if the club could beat contenders. Saturday’s win, its fourth in the past five games, swung the focus back to the pitching staff. Can Senzatela, who pitched to contact and struck out just three with one walk, and a mostly solid rotation, justify the dreams?

“We are a really good team. We can hit. We can [play] defense. We can pitch,” said Senzatela, who rebounded from giving up four homers in a loss at Dodger Stadium in his last start. “Every day is a new day. We just go out, try to win the game to get to the playoffs and World Series.”

With Monday’s 2 p.m. MT Trade Deadline approaching, can the Rockies (17-16) -- one of five National League teams above .500 in a year that eight NL teams will qualify for the postseason -- make some kind of deal to improve in some area? The Padres (20-15), for instance, on Saturday acquired reliever Trevor Rosenthal from the Royals.

Move or not, Senzatela’s performance added to Rockies manager Bud Black’s confidence in a rotation that leads the NL in quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs), with 17.

“That's a telling tale of how our starters have done this year,” Black said. “[Senzatela] was great. The best game I've seen ... was the one in Houston this year [eight scoreless innings on Aug. 18], but this was right there with it. I thought he had good fastball command and life to it. His secondaries were solid, and he bounced back from the game in L.A.”

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Reliever Carlos Estévez, after five straight scoreless outings, was one strike from ending the eighth inning before giving up a two-run double to Jake Croneworth and a game-tying single to Wil Meyers. It took a solid ninth from Daniel Bard and Murphy’s swing with two on to make sure that the Rockies were rewarded for Senzatela’s work.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to the Padres for how they battled back, but ‘Senza’ was absolutely unbelievable today," Murphy said. “He threw the ball so well to turn it over to the bullpen with seven zeros on the board.”

In 14 games, including eight starts, against the NL West-rival Padres, Senzatela is 7-1 with a 2.73 ERA and a .677 OPS against.

“I don’t know. I’ve had really good results,” Senzatela said. “I just try to keep good momentum.”

He showed Saturday that he could switch up his strategy against the Friars.

In his Aug. 2 victory against San Diego at Coors, the usually contact-oriented Senzatela struck out six in six innings, and he mixed far beyond the fastball-slider patterns of the past that got him into trouble against teams other than the Padres.

On Saturday, however, he relied mainly on fastballs, with sliders mixed in, until adding the changeup and going offspeed the third time through the order. He also sought contact, and finished with 11 groundouts.

“That’s part of his growth,” Black said. “He’ll always have the good fastball conviction. But now with other weapons and confidence in those, he can execute a gameplan, and in midstream, change a gameplan depending on what's happening in the ballgame.

“That's part of becoming a Major League pitcher and passing the test of time. He has to do that. Now in his fourth year, we're seeing some great strides in those areas.”