The moment Ryan Feltner's first pitch safely hit catcher Elias Díaz's glove on Sunday, it was already an upgrade from Feltner's MLB debut.
Sure, the 92 mph fastball sailed wide of the plate for ball one -- but it was better than the home run he served up to Ozzie Albies on the first pitch of his career exactly one week ago.
That was far from the only improvement made by the 25-year-old righty in a 5-4 win at Citizens Bank Park. Feltner went on to walk the first batter he faced -- one of three free passes on the day -- but he racked up six strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings while flashing an impressive array of pitches. He also kept the ball in the park after allowing three homers in his first start -- all while Garrett Hampson went deep twice and drove in five runs to carry the offense.
It all resulted in the Rockies winning three of four in a road series against a Phillies team fighting to make the postseason.
“It was awesome. We kept saying how much these games mean to them, and likewise -- these games are huge for us, too,” said Hampson, whose two homers each came on an 0-2 pitch. “We want to play spoiler. To play these teams tough, especially on the road, it means a lot. To come in here and take three of four in Philadelphia was pretty awesome.”
Hampson’s first home run was a three-run shot off Phillies starter Aaron Nola that helped erase an early two-run deficit -- and took Feltner off the hook after he exited the game with two outs in the fourth.
Despite needing 81 pitches to navigate just 3 2/3 innings, Feltner had a little bit of everything working against the Phillies. He got Matt Vierling to swing through a 94.2 mph fastball for a strikeout on a 3-2 pitch in the second inning. Feltner then struck out three batters in the third, including Bryce Harper on an 84 mph changeup. The other two came when he got Odúbel Herrera to chase a slider off the plate and Brad Miller to go after another changeup below the zone.
“I thought his fastball might have had a little bit more life today, and his changeup came into play also -- struck out Harper with the change,” manager Bud Black said. “And that's something that he needs to do, because in his opinion -- and I've only seen him twice now -- he has a lot of confidence in the changeup, and that's one of his better secondary pitches."
The first run allowed by Feltner came when J.T. Realmuto doubled home Herrera in the first inning, though Feltner then stranded a pair of runners in scoring position. Following his impressive third inning, Feltner issued a single and a walk in the fourth and allowed a second run to score when he conceded an RBI knock to Nola.
“Everything was working, but the only issue was I'm just nibbling corners a little bit too much,” Feltner said. “Missing a ball off here and there early in the count isn't going to do me any good. So just being more aggressive early in counts is my main focus going forward. But all my pitches felt good today.”
Along with the balanced pitch mix, the Rockies’ No. 22 prospect impressed his skipper with the way he carried himself in just his second big league start. From the way Feltner prepared for the Phillies’ lineup to the conversations in the dugout between innings, Black said there was plenty to like about Feltner’s performance.
But they both know there are better days ahead, particularly when it comes to the final numbers.
“It was good to see better results,” Black said. “I don't think he wants to look back at this one and see 3 2/3 innings and 81 pitches as a good outing, because it's not -- but he showed signs of improvement and something to work with. So I'm excited and happy about that.”
There was also plenty of excitement postgame about the Rockies’ series victory -- just their third on the road this season. Two of those three series victories have come within the last two weeks after Colorado took two of three against the Dodgers from Aug. 27-29.
The Rockies are 4-1 over their last five road games after starting just 17-50 away from home.
“There's a lot of experiences learned here in these four games that will help us moving forward,” Black said. “It's not the finishing touches obviously, but it helps the process.”