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Pitcher's bat helps Rockies take back 1st place

September 16, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO -- Right-handed pitcher Antonio Senzatela must have figured if he was going to make the Rockies wait nearly five months for a hit, he might as well make it count.Senzatela's two-run, bases-loaded single in the second inning ended the Rockies' season-worst scoreless streak at 20 innings and was

SAN FRANCISCO -- Right-handed pitcher Antonio Senzatela must have figured if he was going to make the Rockies wait nearly five months for a hit, he might as well make it count.
Senzatela's two-run, bases-loaded single in the second inning ended the Rockies' season-worst scoreless streak at 20 innings and was the key swing in a 3-2 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park on Sunday afternoon that allowed the Rockies to regain first place in the tight National League West race. The Dodgers lost to the Cardinals at night to fall a half-game back.
Senzatela (5-6) also held the Giants to one run on five hits, with five strikeouts, in five-plus innings. But it was his single to left field on a 2-2 count against Dereck Rodriguez (6-4) -- his first hit since a run-scoring double off the Marlins' Jose Urena on April 27 -- that was key.

Upon reaching first base, Senzatela commemorated his hit with a smile and high-five for first-base coach Tony Diaz.
"I told him, 'Finally. I had, like, a 20 at-bat slump,'" Senzatela recalled saying. "So that's good."
A one-out error on Giants first baseman Austin Slater, Ian Desmond's single and Chris Iannetta's walk brought Senzatela to the plate sporting a 1-for-16 batting performance. Senzatela's hit broke broke the Rockies' 0-for-14 skid with runners in scoring position through the first two games of the series and the first two innings Sunday.
"That was a big hit there, got us going," said manager Bud Black, whose team managed seven hits but finished the series scoring one earned run in 27 innings. "Great read by Desi there [to score from second]."

DJ LeMahieu added a sacrifice fly that gave the Rockies enough, as a bullpen of Chris Rusin, Scott Oberg, Adam Ottavino and Wade Davis (40th save) held the Giants to one run on two hits and a walk, with seven strikeouts.
Senzatela had another shot to help with the bat. He was up with the bases loaded and two out in the top of the sixth. Black, noting that Senzatela had thrown just 79 pitches and possibly could have gone another two innings, stuck with him and he struck out against Rodriguez.
However, Senzatela gave up a Joe Panik single on an 0-1 pitch and walked Evan Longoria on five pitches to make going to the bullpen necessary.
"Antonio overall hung in there," Black said. "The curveball was the best we've seen in a while -- it had good action to it, he kept it down for the most part. He pitched with a fastball-curveball and mixed in some changeup. He battled. He hung in there. He competes."

Senzatela wiggled out of a couple of early jams. He fanned Gorkys Hernandez and Rodriguez to end the second with two on and extracted a double-play grounder from Brandon Crawford with two on to end the third.
"I knew there were big moments, but I really tried to stay in the moment and execute my pitches, then roll with it," Senzatela said.

The Rockies have spent the year dealing with joys and heartaches offensively, but the consistency of their defense has helped the pitching that has kept the team in contention. On Sunday, multiple plays could have become troublesome had they not been made. For example:
• Third baseman Nolan Arenado's barehand pickup and throw robbed Slater of a possible infield hit to open the second.

• LeMahieu's backhand snatch of Crawford's grounder led to the third-inning double play.
• Left fielder David Dahl had two key catches. He ranged into the corner to grab Aramis Garcia's long fly to end the fourth and battled the sun before grabbing Chris Shaw's sky-high pop to end the seventh.
"Those go unnoticed," Black said. "Run prevention is critical. Defense is very important. Usually, you're getting good pitching and every out is important."

Rockies relievers have given up one run -- off Ottavino on Sunday -- in the last 17 2/3 innings. That span has included 16 strikeouts, seven hits and one walk.
Oberg, Ottavino and Davis -- whose 40 saves are one shy of the club mark held by Jose Jimenez in 2002 and Greg Holland last season -- have carried the brunt of the innings protecting leads, especially with Seunghwan Oh out since Sept. 9 with a left hamstring problem (he could return during the upcoming series against the Dodgers).

But Rusin fanned Crawford, the only man he faced Sunday, threw two spotless innings in Wednesday's 5-4 home win over the D-backs and has worked back to important situations after a rough most of the season, and rookie righties Yency Almonte and DJ Johnson and rookie lefty Harrison Musgrave have been called upon in some tight spots.
"We're hitting our stride right now, making big outs -- especially when we need it in close games like that," Oberg said.
Davis has put a couple of crisis periods behind him. He has six blown saves, but in his last 13 innings has given up one run and five hits while striking out 19 (two on Sunday) against two walks.
"I always feel pretty confident in everything; you have to be, so nothing's really changed," Davis said.
The Rockies have matched their club record for road victories in a season, 41. They reached that total in 2009 and last season.
The Rockies begin a three-game showdown with the Dodgers with righty Jon Gray (11-7, 4.80 ERA), who needs to rebound from inefficient four-inning efforts his last two starts, against lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (4-3, 2.42) at Dodger Stadium on Monday at 8:10 p.m. MT. One of Gray's short recent efforts came Sept. 7, when he held the Dodgers to two runs but gave up four hits and walked five -- all while throwing 85 pitches in four innings.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.