CINCINNATI -- With no spot in the starting rotation available, Rockies left-hander Chris Rusin is getting the hang of rescue work.
Tuesday night, for the second time in six days, he replaced an ineffective starter and gave the Rockies a chance. This time, after Jorge De La Rosa lasted just two innings plus two batters, Rusin threw four scoreless innings. Although the Rockies lost, 4-3, after Mark Reynolds' two-run homer in the ninth narrowed the margin, Rusin's two-hit effort made a comeback possible.
Last Wednesday at home against the Giants, Rusin replaced Jordan Lyles for an important strikeout to end the fifth inning with the Rockies up a run, and he pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings for the win.
"You just learn to trust your stuff -- that's pretty much it," Rusin said. "That's pretty much what I was able to do, pound the zone, give the team some innings, save the bullpen."
Rusin warmed up during De La Rosa's four-run, five stolen-base, one hit-batsman mess in the second, and had to go in after Brandon Phillips doubled and Devin Mesoraco walked to open the third. Rusin kept the score 4-1 with ground balls from Jay Bruce and Tyler Holt, the second beginning a double play.
Rusin, 29, started 22 of his 24 appearances last season (6-10, 5.33 ERA) and had two complete games. He entered Spring Training with designs on the rotation, but inflammation of the pulley tendon of the left middle finger limited his chance to build his innings catalog. After giving up three runs on three hits and a hit batter in his season debut against the Padres, Rusin has given the Rockies a pair of lifts.
"You can't ask for anything more than what Rusin gave us," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He knows how to pitch. He changes speeds. He commands the ball. He can put the ball on the ground when he needs to. He did a great job."
Often a long-relief role like the one Rusin had on Tuesday is to merely save the bullpen since the game is already out of reach. But with the Rockies' offense swinging in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, Rusin felt a victory was possible. In fact, he blamed himself for not making it more possible in the fifth, when he popped out against Reds rookie starter Robert Stephenson with a runner at third and one out.
"Anytime with our offense, we're in any game," Rusin said. "Mark hit a big-time home run. If I was able to get that runner in when I was at-bat, it would've been a tie ballgame. Little things like that bother me. It's just frustrating because if I can get the ball on the ground to the right side I can get the guy in.
"You can help yourself out. You can help the team out. If I'm pitching against a hitter, I know he's taking his at-bat seriously. I don't want to make it a free out."