Anderson's surge gives Rox a rotation option for 2024

September 21st, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- Rockies pitcher took a frustrated stroll behind the mound at Petco Park, knowing all he had done -- all he could do -- might not be enough to guarantee him his first win of this season.

With one down and one on in the seventh inning on Wednesday afternoon, the Padres’ Garrett Cooper hit a roller too slow for shortstop Ezequiel Tovar to turn a double play, and too far to Tovar’s right for him to manage an out at any base.

The rest of the game fit with Anderson’s luck. Luis Campusano managed a soft RBI single off Justin Lawrence and Ji Man Choi added a sacrifice fly. There went the lead, and the Rockies fell, 3-2.

Swept in three close games at Petco, the Rockies sit at 56-96 going into a three-game weekend road set against the Cubs starting on Friday.

Pitcher wins have fallen out of vogue because of games like Anderson’s -- 6 1/3 innings, five hits and three runs (two earned). After a first-inning unearned run, Anderson used his diverse pitch mix and some solid defense to keep the Padres under control.

The performance, on the heels of seven hitless innings (but a no-decision) in his previous start, should argue well for Anderson, 35, who will be a free agent at season's end but believes he can be a steady cog in the Rockies’ 2024 rotation.

But a “W” would have been nice.

“Wins and losses are on a pitcher’s record, but there is a team record, too,” Anderson said. "You want to win games. But more than that, I want to do my job. That’s what I can control.”

Anderson’s overall numbers -- 0-6 with a 6.13 ERA in 16 starts with the Rockies, who claimed him off waivers from the Rays -- aren’t impressive, thanks to an extreme rough patch. He yielded 22 runs in 9 1/3 innings over three starts June 18-29. Since the All-Star break, however, Anderson has given up three or fewer runs in five of his six starts.

“The fastball-change combination is real,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “His cutter-slider that he manipulates was effective. He pitched really well.”

Brendan Rodgers’ first home run of the season and Ezequiel Tovar’s RBI single gave Anderson a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Padres starter Seth Lugo. 

Anderson forced repeated weak contact and also induced two double plays -- one featuring a slick grab and flip from Tovar at short and a barehanded catch followed by a strong throw from Rodgers in the fourth.

However, the Rockies did little with their numerous chances. Brenton Doyle singled to open the ninth against Padres closer Josh Hader and was at third with two out, but Rodgers flied to right.

It was another close loss by a team that has solid, mostly youthful, parts but not enough at this stage. The experience of repeated close games this year could help the ’24 daily lineup. But with two key starting pitchers (Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela) recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Rockies will begin ’24 at a pitching deficit.

With the way he is finishing, Anderson is bidding for a chance to help.

“This team has really grown over the last two months, and the offense is coming together,” Anderson said. “The offense is coming together. They’re making really tough at-bats against opposing pitchers and starting to believe in each other and as a group.

“If we can finish the season and carry that into next year, this can be really good. I’m hoping I can be a part of it.”