'Keep working': Senza holds down Mets

April 19th, 2021

DENVER -- Over the last two seasons, Rockies right-hander has shown he's capable of front-of-the rotation production. The baseball world may not know this yet, but six of the seven teams he's faced since the start of the 2020 season can vouch for him.

The Mets are on that list. But with Colorado's offense barely touching New York starter Marcus Stroman in the Rockies’ 2-1 loss Sunday at Coors Field, Senzatela played an individual sport over six solid innings.

Senzatela didn’t dominate, but he held the Mets to two runs (one earned) and struck out four with no walks. The loss dropped Senzatela to 1-3, but Sunday’s defeat could hardly be blamed on him. It also added to some interesting numbers.

• In 11 starts since the beginning of 2020, Senzatela has a 2.56 ERA in 70 1/3 innings pitched, and he's held opponents to a .238 average.

• Since the start of last season, Senzatela has a 7.83 ERA in 23 innings (five starts) against the Dodgers, with a .323 average against him.

Beyond two poor outings against the Dodgers, Senzatela has had a standout start to the season, throwing eight scoreless against the D-backs on April 7, plus Sunday’s effort against Stroman.

“I put in my mind when I threw the bullpen before this game, that [Dodgers] game just passed away, and I’m going to keep working,” Senzatela said.

Word hasn’t gotten around on Senzatela, partly because he's only played against National and American League West teams entering Sunday, and because the Dodgers skew his and many other pitchers’ numbers.

“I've seen him develop into a very effective Major League starting pitcher,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We've seen the development of the secondary pitches, I think that's going to continue to improve. He's in a good spot physically and mentally with his pitches, and his frame of mind and where he is with his stuff. So I expect that will continue."

The Rockies dropped two games to the Mets and own the Majors’ worst record at 4-12 even though a healthy percentage of their starters' outings were winnable. Part of it is opposing pitching, with seven games against the Dodgers and two of the three starts by the Mets thrown by pitchers with sub 1.00 ERAs -- Jacob deGrom (0.45) and Stroman (0.90 after eight innings of one-run ball on Sunday).

The Rockies’ need for runs led to an ending that was exhilarating for the neutral observer, and possibly maddening for Purple Pinstripes partisans. Trevor Story singled off Mets closer Edwin Díaz with two out in the ninth and tried to steal second with Charlie Blackmon batting. It took a perfect throw by Mets catcher James McCann and a quick tag by shortstop Francisco Lindor to end the Rockies’ Majors-leading ninth loss by two or fewer runs.

Story’s aggressiveness will be debated in a sport that has become increasingly stationary. But here is the issue: The Rockies are having a devil of a time winning despite a 3.66 starter ERA over 16 games, as well as a 3.00 ERA in 10 games at Coors.

“Just come out, do your job and try to keep the game close for your guys,” Senzatela said.

Story said he felt bad Blackmon didn't have a chance to drive him in, but Blackmon “reiterated to me that it was the right play.”

Black concurred before explaining the club identified the Díaz-McCann battery as the right combination for a steal attempt. “We can’t sit back and wait,” said Black.

The biggest hit off Senzatela, Michael Conforto’s second-inning double after Pete Alonso’s single, was a soft liner that fell behind the infield and didn’t roll as far as the wall. That led to an RBI groundout by Jeff McNeil. And with two down and one on in the fourth, first baseman C.J. Cron’s fielding error allowed Conforto, who singled with two out, to go from first to third. He eventually scored an unearned run on J.D. Davis’ single.

Senzatela continues to add different spices to his pitch mix. The standout start against the D-backs featured more sliders than any other pitch. On Sunday, he used his four-seam fastball 49 percent of the time, and leaned on it for eight of his 11 groundouts.

At least Senzatela’s Dodger problem is on the back burner, since the Rockies don’t see them again until July 16, when the schedule resumes after the All-Star Game is played July 13 at Coors. In the meantime, he is taking the right actions to build his resume.

“Every side session, every game is a learning experience,” Black said. “And he continues to grow as a pitcher. He’s not a finished product yet. There's still some upside there with Senzatela.”