Senza keeps LA in check, playoff hopes alive

September 21st, 2020

DENVER -- Right-hander spent 6 1/3 effective innings doing the dual task of controlling the high-scoring Dodgers and allowing the Rockies to at least temporarily set aside worries that have grown over the last six weeks.

The 6-3 victory, which also included three RBIs from Josh Fuentes, gave the Rockies just their third win in the nine-game final homestand of 2020. Although the last stand was a bummer -- as was, really, the whole year at Coors (12-18) -- the Rockies finished the day three games out of a playoff spot. They head to San Francisco on Monday, then to Arizona on Friday, for four-game sets at each venue.

“We’ve just got in our mind, like, ‘We’re gonna make it,’” Senzatela said.

Senzatela held the National League West-leading Dodgers, who had scored 30 runs in the first three games of the series, to three hits for his second win of the homestand. The other, of course, was a six-hit, complete-game 3-1 victory over the American League West-leading Athletics. In his last seven starts, Senzatela has held his opponent to two or fewer runs in five of them.

Senzatela was needed Sunday -- although after he walked off with a 5-1 lead, the Rockies had to sweat out the late innings, which took everything a sore-armed and rusty bullpen could muster.

After an 11-3 start, the Rockies have struggled to the point that the subject has turned to the future more than the postseason quest. While it is largely the same team that went to the postseason in 2017 and ‘18, it’s also the one that collapsed to 71-91 last year, and faltered in a 60-game schedule too short to afford to struggle.

The big question is whether missing out on the playoffs would lead to significant changes, even a rebuild that could cost the team some of its most recognizable figures -- such as Nolan Arenado, who has been nursing a sore left shoulder and was not in Sunday’s lineup. Manager Bud Black said Arenado underwent tests Sunday and they are “awaiting some news.”

Senzatela put those subjects aside for the moment by flummoxing the Dodgers in much the same way he did the A’s. He didn’t have an inning where two runners reached base until the seventh, when he walked his final two batters and departed after 104 pitches.

Senzatela, who entered with a 163 ERA+ (a park-adjusted stat that puts 100 at league average), struck out three with nine groundouts. With that kind of pitching -- plus the dependably solid work of Germán Márquez (124 ERA+) and Kyle Freeland (143 ERA+), who are starting the first two games in San Francisco -- the Rockies won’t speculate about what will happen if they don’t turn it around.

Senzatela’s work was a reminder that the starting pitching is good enough for the Rockies to pin playoff hopes upon.

“After the complete game, [Senzatela] bounced back and was on point with the fastball,” Black said. “He had great command of the fastball, some good sliders, mixing in some curveballs. He’s pitching with a lot of confidence and a lot of conviction in stuff.”

Senzatela makes it hard to dwell on the frightening what ifs.

His starts begin with “Esta Vida” by Jimmy Zambrano and Jorge Celedón blaring. The instrumentation is joyful, and people who may be having a bad day owe it to themselves to throw the lyrics into Google Translate.

“It’s my, ‘Go get ‘em every day, it’s a new day,’ song,” Senzatela said.

Long before his day to pitch, he carries that attitude through dietary adjustments and workouts that have led to a 30-pound drop (to 224) from last season, when he finished with a 6.71 ERA in 25 starts

“I come to the ballpark every day positive,” he said. “Like, ‘This is a new game. We need to win this game. We’re going to win as a team.’ Even during my workout, I think, ‘I need to put myself in a good situation.’

“Every day is a new day.”