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Senzatela goes the full 9 in stifling A's

@harding_at_mlb
September 16, 2020

DENVER -- Modern thinking treats pitching as an individual sport. If you pitch well, but bad things happen beyond your control, don’t worry. Antonio Senzatela had been through enough starts like that -- and had seen too many starts like that push the Rockies below the eight-team playoff threshold. So

DENVER -- Modern thinking treats pitching as an individual sport. If you pitch well, but bad things happen beyond your control, don’t worry.

Antonio Senzatela had been through enough starts like that -- and had seen too many starts like that push the Rockies below the eight-team playoff threshold.

So he controlled everything Tuesday night, firing the Rockies’ first complete game of the season and the first of his career in a 3-1 victory over the Athletics at Coors Field. It was his third time going at least seven innings in 2020, but the Rockies had split the previous two, and Senzatela had nothing on his record.

Box score

And there was one more self-motivating factor: Tuesday was the third birthday for his son, Thiago. No one was going to take the ball from him before he was done.

“In the eighth inning, Buddy [Black] talked to me,” Senzatela said of his manager. “‘How you feel?’ he said. I said I feel really good. I feel better now than at the start of the game.

“He said, ‘Be honest with me.’ I said, ‘I’m good; let me finish.’”

Elias Díaz, whose fifth-inning homer was the first by a Rockies catcher this season, said, “If the manager tried to take him out of the game, I was going to say no.”

Senzatela forced 14 groundouts and finished at 109 pitches. He struck out the next-to-last hitter, Mark Canha, with a 96.7 mph fastball and enticed Jake Lamb to ground a 95.8 mph heater to end it.

The first two hitters of the first and second innings reached base, but Senzatela escaped with one run and few pitches spent.

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“You like when the pitch count’s down when there is traffic, so that was a good sign,” Black said. “The A's were aggressive early on some first-pitch swings, and we got some outs. So that helped. But again, I got to give credit to Antonio for making pitches on the first pitch.

“They must have been good enough to hit, or at least looked good enough to hit, for them to swing. That was an indication of his command.”

Senzatela held the Athletics to two runs and six hits over five innings at Oakland on July 28.

Tuesday brought the Rockies’ first complete game since Germán Márquez’s one-hitter at San Francisco on April 24 last season. It was the Rockies’ first at home since Jon Gray on Sept. 27, 2016, a 16-strikeout performance against the Padres.

“He got better as he went along,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He throws a slider for a strike whenever he wants to. He threw a lot of changeups, keeps you off balance. It looked like his fastball played better and he used it more toward the end.”

Senzatela boosted the Rockies to 22-25 this season, which is only a game out of the eighth and final National League playoff spot.

Since Sept. 4, a Rockies starter has pitched at least six innings in five of the 10 games and given up fewer than three runs seven times. But at times the bullpen has faltered, and more times the offense has struggled. Kyle Freeland, Márquez and Senzatela have been dependable during this stretch. The rotation is missing Gray, who is out with right shoulder soreness.

“Tonight he [Senzatela] took the bull by the horns and got it done,” Black said. “We've seen that from Kyle and Germán. Kyle's had a very solid year with his [eight] quality starts, and Germán has had some very solid games, especially lately.

“We need those three guys. But there's two other starts to be made in a five-man rotation. We need those guys, too. So, again, proud of the starters, their overall work this year.”

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.