'Great conviction': Senza's start key in win

September 16th, 2021

ATLANTA -- has pitched in a real pennant race, and he would much rather be doing that. But he’s doing quite the job in this pretend pennant race -- with the Rockies trying to spoil contending teams’ hopes.

Wednesday night, Senzatela held the NL East-leading Braves to two runs across six innings in the Rockies' 3-2, 10-inning victory at Truist Park. Raimel Tapia’s RBI single was the difference in a game that was played in steady rain throughout that periodically turned into driving rain.

It was Senzatela’s seventh straight quality start -- the Rockies’ longest such streak since 2018, when Kyle Freeland and Germán Márquez went 12 straight. Senzatela’s current run is tied for fourth-longest in club history.

Throughout his start, Senzatela was at times his usual self in helping the Rockies claim two straight series wins over the top two teams in the NL East, after taking three of four from the Phillies over the weekend. He scattered seven hits and forced five groundouts, including two double-play grounders. Senzatela would have had a third if not for second baseman Brendan Rodgers’ errant relay throw in the fourth. His seven strikeouts served as his second-most this season.

“He had a good fastball tonight -- a guy that has great conviction in his fastball, which I love,” manager Bud Black said. “He mixed in some changeups -- not many curveballs, but a few. His slider was solid.

“He pitched very well and made some big pitches when he needed to. So six innings, seven hits, two runs, no walks [and] seven strikeouts -- he was outstanding on the road against a good team.”

Known as a strike-thrower, Senzatela took that trait to an extreme (88 pitches, 67 strikes). He left with the game tied at 2 because one pitch -- to fifth-inning leadoff man Eddie Rosario -- was not low enough inside, and ended up being lifted to right for a home run.

As notable as Senzatela was the performance of five relievers -- especially Lucas Gilbreath, who entered after Daniel Bard walked two with one out in the seventh, and Robert Stephenson, who stranded two runners in the 10th for the save.

After struggling for a lengthy period in 2019, and even enduring an option to Triple-A Albuquerque, Senzatela became a somewhat forgotten man -- even though he started a game in the 2018 National League Division Series.

But Senzatela’s current run suggests that he rightfully should be mentioned among the more renowned Rockies hurlers: Márquez, Freeland and Jon Gray. Southpaw Austin Gomber, who pitched well for much of the season until a back injury reduced his effectiveness and eventually led to him being shut down, completes a rotation that the Rockies will build around in 2022.

While the Rockies are stuck in fourth in the NL West, they are building confidence, with quiet success to show for it. The Rockies were a season-worst 16 games under .500 on June 27. Since then they are 37-31. The key will be finding consistency over the long haul, but they believe they have that type of starting pitching.

“They’re on the attack -- gotta love that,” Black said.