De La Rosa, 'pen falter in fifth as Rox drop opener
Lefty allows five runs -- four in his last inning; CarGo prevents shutout
MIAMI -- Rockies left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa was involved in a pitchers' duel with the Marlins' Jose Fernandez for four innings Monday night. But during the fifth, as the game spun out of control, it looked as if he was battling catcher Wilin Rosario and his own temper.
By the time De La Rosa left the mound without completing the fifth, the Rockies were well on their way to a 10-1 Opening Night loss to the Marlins before a Marlins Park record sellout crowd of 37,116. At least De La Rosa finished his night by finally winning a confrontation -- with a trash can in the runway to the clubhouse.
It was Colorado's first game of the post-Todd Helton era. Helton retired last year after 17 seasons in a Rockies uniform. As enthusiastic a player as Helton was, he might have been happy in retirement watching the Rockies struggle with Fernandez and see things turn sour for De La Rosa.
"I did my best today, but I lost my focus," said De La Rosa, who struck out six -- all in the first four innings -- but wound up charged with five runs, four hits, two walks and a hit batsman in 4 1/3 innings. "My first four innings were really good."
The issue seems to manifest itself with Rosario behind the plate. It happened the last time the two worked together in Spring Training, then De La Rosa had a stellar final outing with Michael McKenry (now at Triple-A Colorado Springs) catching. But Rosario, who is an offensive force but has struggled at times behind the plate, is the catcher, so manager Walt Weiss sat them both down and stated he wants them to get it together.
It was just 2-0 -- the Marlins' Marcell Ozuna homered to open the third, then doubled and scored on Adeiny Hechavarria's single at the start of the fifth -- when the game went haywire. With a runner at second, which is where the De La Rosa and Rosario tend to get crossed up on signs, the catcher went out for a visit that proved frustrating. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki joined. So did pitching coach Jim Wright. It ended only when plate umpire Jerry Layne broke it up.
Then De La Rosa bounced a pitch that hit Jeff Baker. Weiss went to Wilton Lopez, who gave up an infield single to Giancarlo Stanton, and a three-run Casey McGehee double made it 6-0. Not even Carlos Gonzalez's monstrous homer to center off Fernandez with one out in the fifth could save the Rockies.
"Jorge got frustrated," Weiss said. "It was more [frustration] with himself. Wilin went out there to try to calm him down. We've got to get it worked out. Wilin caught a lot of De La's wins last year, so it's not like they haven't worked well together before."
As angry as he was on the mound and in the dugout tunnel, De La Rosa spoke evenly and blamed himself afterward.
After arriving in a trade with the Royals in 2008, De La Rosa learned some calming techniques from the team's then-sports psychologist, and he has said those have helped him during his career. But now it seems when a runner is on second, the pitcher and Rosario try to conceal signs from the runner, but misunderstandings occur, then discord somehow bubbles. De La Rosa said he might have to brush up on his mental skills.
"I'm still using them, but I don't read those things," De La Rosa said of the calming techniques. "That was a long time ago. But I'll start doing them again."
Rosario said they will try to settle on signs that work, and practice them between now and the next start. Rosario also insisted there is no personal issue between him and De La Rosa, no matter how bad Monday looked.
"We talked," Rosario said. "Nothing happened. We're good. We're good teammates. He is a good person. We just want to be together in the game."
The Rockies scratched out five hits on Fernandez, who's coming off an NL Rookie of the Year performance last year. But only one of the hits was damaging. With one out in the sixth, Gonzalez crushed a 94-mph four-seam fastball into the center-field bleachers, where batted balls rarely visit.
"I just put a good swing on the ball," said Gonzalez, who watched his homer sail and later had a loud, but good-natured, back-and-forth with Fernandez. "It was a mistake. He put it right down the middle and I took advantage. When you get a pitcher like that, you can't miss those opportunities."
The Rockies twice had two on against Fernandez. But Tulowizki struck out on a slider, and Justin Morneau grounded out to end the first.
"He's different with that pitch," Tulowitkzi said of the slider. "I think that sets him apart from guys. It covers a lot of ground, I guess."
Fernandez worked Nolan Arenado into an infield popup to end the fourth with two on base, and the Marlins dominated from there.
"That's where we struggled as a team last year, getting the run support," Fernandez said. "Obviously, these guys can hit. I said it when we went to Spring Training. I think we have a good team. The relationships are amazing. We're always joking around, it's fun. It's so much different than last year."
Lopez gave up six hits and two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. The Marlins scored three runs on four hits off Chad Bettis in the eighth.