SAN DIEGO -- The Rockies have climbed atop the National League West largely on the backs of their rookie starting pitchers. Jeff Hoffman got in on the fun Sunday afternoon.Hoffman, the club's No. 2 prospect, made quick work of the Padres in a 3-1, series-clinching victory at Petco Park. He
SAN DIEGO -- The Rockies have climbed atop the National League West largely on the backs of their rookie starting pitchers. Jeff Hoffman got in on the fun Sunday afternoon.
Hoffman, the club's No. 2 prospect, made quick work of the Padres in a 3-1, series-clinching victory at Petco Park. He needed only 89 pitches to get through seven innings of one-run ball, allowing three hits and striking out a career-high nine hitters as the Rockies leapfrogged the Dodgers into first place in the National League West. They're 23-10 in a Major League-leading 33 games started by rookies this season.
The Rockies have shuttled Hoffman, 24, between Triple-A Albuquerque and the Majors, but he has excelled in each of his three starts this season. With lefty Tyler Anderson on the 10-day disabled list with left knee inflammation, Hoffman (3-0) is expected to start again next Saturday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
"It's real easy to come into an environment like this -- good, veteran leadership, great defense behind you," Hoffman said. "It makes things a lot easier to go back and forth."
• Rockies enjoying that winning feeling
Hoffman mixed pitches expertly. His best weapon was a high-spin-rate curveball -- according to Statcast™, it had 2,818 projected revolutions per minute (59 RPMs above his 2017 average, and highest of his 12 Major League appearances) -- and got nine swings and misses on it. And he did it against a Padres squad that doesn't hit curves well.
"He's pitching with confidence, conviction and belief," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "It's really good to see."
Padres right-hander Jarred Cosart, coming off consecutive poor outings, wasn't nearly as efficient. He threw a season-high 96 pitches over four-plus frames, and couldn't find a put-away pitch his second time through the order. The Rockies scored three two-out runs in the fourth on consecutive singles by Trevor Story and Tony Wolters. They loaded the bases again in the fifth, prompting Cosart's exit after he had allowed three runs on six hits and three walks.
"I just missed a couple times, some ground balls found holes, and I was out of the game," said Cosart, who was sharp through three but came undone in the fourth. "That's a good hitting team over there. You have to give them credit. They fought off a lot of pitches, they hit some good pitches, they hit some bad pitches. I'll get better, take some positives out of it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Calm, cool, collected:Hunter Renfroe opened the bottom of the fifth inning with a mammoth 438-foot homer above the third porch of the Western Metal Building. Franchy Cordero followed with a single, and Hoffman found himself on the ropes for the first time. But he would escape with two strikeouts and a flyout. Hoffman got pinch-hitter Matthew Szczur to swing at an 0-2 slider at his ankles to end the threat.
"He's really effective when he throws a fastball up, and he has that little curveball that he throws almost in the dirt, right off the strike zone, which he did really well today," Renfroe said. "That's what makes him effective. He throws 97, and he's 6-foot-5, so he's got a lot of leverage."
Long Story: Cosart loaded the bases in the fourth after walking Ian Desmond, bringing Story to the plate. The Rockies' shortstop worked the count full and fouled off three straight pitches before smacking a single up the middle to open the scoring. It plated two runs, and Wolters followed with an RBI knock of his own, giving Colorado a 3-0 lead.
Story has hit .279 with seven RBIs in 11 games since returning from a left shoulder injury that cost him 13 games. When he was placed on the DL, he was hitting .186.
"[Cosart] was throwing some tough pitches, and I had to try to spoil a couple of them," Story said. "I was trying to put the ball in play somewhere."
"I know the results don't look a ton different. I did think he attacked more. His body language was good. It was just near-misses, as opposed to last game, when I think they were fairly drastic misses. In one sense, better. In another sense, the bar is high as a starter to continue to pitch and win games at the Major League level."
-- Padres manager Andy Green, on Cosart
Padres left fielder Allen Cordoba made a brilliant running catch to start the second inning before colliding with the wall. He was looked at by a team trainer but remained in the game.
Three innings later, Yangervis Solarte went head over heels into the first row trying to catch a popup down the right-field line. After the game, Green downplayed any injury concerns for the pair, saying both were fine.
Fans at Petco Park didn't agree, and they let Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra know about it. The Padres challenged a hit-by-pitch call in the eighth, when Parra was leading off against Ryan Buchter. Parra said the ball grazed his hand. Fans booed Parra lustily when he came to bat in the ninth and celebrated Brandon Maurer's strikeout of him.
Interestingly, on April 6, during the Rockies' season-opening series at Milwaukee, umpires ruled Parra was hit by a pitch, but after a challenge it was found the ball didn't touch him, and he had sold the play.
Rockies: Rookie righty Antonio Senzatela (7-2, 3.49 ERA) was so effective in April that May could almost be considered a slump -- even though he still went 4-1 with a 4.11 ERA. Senzatela opens June against the defending American League-champion Indians on Tuesday at Coors Field. First pitch is at 6:40 p.m. MT.
Padres:Dinelson Lamet will start Tuesday when the Padres open a three-game set against the D-backs in Arizona. He has recorded 16 strikeouts in his first two career starts, tying Bob Shirley's 40-year-old franchise record. First pitch is slated for 6:40 p.m. PT.
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AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and** like his Facebook page**.