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2 starts, 2 wins vs. Cubs for this Rox rookie

Lambert's arrival shows GM's home-grown strategy can work
@harding_at_mlb
June 12, 2019

DENVER -- If the Rockies keep finding folks like right-hander Peter Lambert, they just may be able to stay with the pitching strategy that has led to back-to-back postseason berths -- build from within, and coach and develop their way out of problems. In a season that has tested the

DENVER -- If the Rockies keep finding folks like right-hander Peter Lambert, they just may be able to stay with the pitching strategy that has led to back-to-back postseason berths -- build from within, and coach and develop their way out of problems.

In a season that has tested the Rockies’ methods, with the rotation carrying a National League-worst 5.59 ERA, Lambert has justified them in his first two Major League starts. Tuesday, Lambert delivered five innings of one-run, three-hit ball a 10-3 victory over the Cubs at Coors Field.

Box score

Lambert, 22, debuted last Thursday at Wrigley Field, striking out nine in seven innings while also beating the Cubs.

On Tuesday, he gave up just Jason Heyward’s second-inning homer, struck out three and pitching through traffic in each of his innings. In the fourth, he bruised his left knee when he dashed into foul ground and slid awkwardly to catch Willson Contreras’ foul popup. Manager Bud Black removed him after five innings.

“It was the second time they’d seen me in less than a week,” Lambert said. “They came in with a pretty good game plan and knew how I was going to attack them. I noticed that they laid off a few good pitches early, but I was out there trying to attack.”

Such performances from homegrown products will have to become the norm. Lambert was a second-round pick in 2015 out of San Dimas (Calif.) High School and is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the team’s No. 4 prospect.

But up and down the rotation, it hasn’t worked as planned.

The Rockies have endured the loss of lefty Tyler Anderson, whose status for the rest of the season is uncertain after left knee surgery Tuesday; a role change for righty Chad Bettis, who had another successful relief appearance Tuesday; and the struggles of Opening Day starter Kyle Freeland, who is at Triple-A Albuquerque after going 2-6 with a 7.13 ERA in 12 starts.

With German Marquez (6-3, 4.19 ERA) and Jon Gray (5-5, 4.27) the most consistent members of the rotation, and Antonio Senzatela (5-4, 4.95) and Jeff Hoffman (1-3, 8.06) trying to even out their performances, the Rockies are last in the National League with a 5.59 starter ERA.

However, the high rate of runs off starters hasn’t stymied the Rockies (35-31), whose 10 straight home wins are one shy of the club mark during a single season (11, June 30-July 24, 1996). Part of the reason is the offense. Charlie Blackmon knocked his 12th homer of the season, a three-run shot in a five-run sixth. And the Rockies have outscored their opponents, 72-43, during the home win streak.

Better starting pitching will help them stay in contention. For now, it must come from within.

“It helps explain why depth is so critical and why we need just a host of people stepping up, being ready and becoming ready at the Double-A, Triple-A and Major League levels to help us out up here,” Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said before watching Lambert win. “Those things have to keep happening for us year after year based on how we set this up in terms of having our guys, working on keeping them healthy and, when we have issues, working primarily from within to filter up and replace when we need them.”

Would Bridich look elsewhere for help in the month and a half leading to the Trade Deadline?

“I’m sure that we’ll do our due diligence in terms of who’s out there, as long as we think of ourselves as buyers," Bridich said. “We need to keep playing well, winning games here and staying playoff-relevant."

Working into postseason-relevance with the rotation performing well enough to make acquisitions unnecessary could be going hand in hand. Since May 15, the Rockies are 11-4 -- and the starters are 7-4 with a 4.78 ERA.

“If you wait around for success to get you on a roll, you’re going to be waiting a long time in this or any sport,” said Chris Iannetta, Lambert’s catcher in both starts. “They’re all competitive. They all believe in each other. They all root for each other. A lot of good things have happened.”

One key will be getting Freeland is closer to his 17-win form of last year. Last year, the Rockies optioned Gray in late June and he returned for a solid second half (although he didn’t appear on the postseason roster).

For now, the current rotation will have to do the job. Lambert is part of it.

“I don’t want to put any extra pressure on myself,” Lambert said. “That’s just going to hurt me in the long run. I just want to go out there and make quality pitches.”

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