Move over Zack Greinke, and take a seat, Shelby Miller. The two high-profile Arizona pitchers have each turned in sub-par starts in the opening month, and right-hander Rubby De La Rosa has quietly turned heads.
After a season in which he was one of the top pitchers in the National League in yielding home runs and recorded an ERA of 4.57, De La Rosa clearly stepped forward over the past two weeks, and now appears reliable as any pitcher on manager Chip Hale’s staff.
In his last start against the Pirates, De La Rosa made a significant adjustment by delivering the ball rapidly That prevented the emotional and demonstrative De La Rosa from thinking too much, and decipher strategy on the fly. The result was a solid, rewarding victory over Pittsburgh, and a positive step toward realizing the Diamondbacks confidence.
On Thursday, De La Rosa took his game to yet another level, and pounded the strike zone with uncanny accuracy. The result was seven brilliant innings, and the right-hander came away with a 3-0 victory of the St. Louis Cardinals before 18,933 in Chase Field. The win snapped a modest two-game losing streak, and moved the Diamondbacks back to the .500 mark at 12-12.
In getting 19 first-pitch strikes of the 26 hitters faced, De La Rosa was able to set the tempo and firmly establish control of the game. For the seven innings he worked, the native of Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts, walked two hitters, and allowed two harmless singles. These went to Yadier Molina with one out in the second, and two-out single to Stephen Piscotty in the second. From Piscotty’s single, De La Rosa retired 13 of the final 15 hitters he faced.
Along the way, De La Rosa, (now 3-3, 4.18 ERA) was the first Arizona pitcher to pitch seven scoreless innings and record 10 strikeout since Ian Kennedy against the Pirates on Sept. 18, 2011. His efficiency was so strong at one point that De La Rosa needed only 18 pitches to get through the fifth and sixth innings combined.
“Everything was working and I was going down in the zone,” De La Rosa said. “Yes, I’m working fast, turn things around and do my job.”
In support of De La Rosa’s stellar performance, the Diamondbacks utilized their favorite weapon, the home run. In the second inning, catcher Chris Herrmann reached the right-field bleachers with a runner on for a two-run bomb, and later in the fourth, utility player Brandon Drury slammed his third of the season to create a 3-0 lead. From there, De La Rosa cruised through the seventh, Daniel Hudson retired the side in order in the eighth, and Brad Ziegler pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his fifth save of the season.
“(De La Rosa’s) slider was unbelievable,” said Herrmann, who has caught De La Rosa in his last two games, both wins. “Our plan was to the use the slider and keep them off-balance. That’s a very good hitting team over there, and we wanted to make them feel uncomfortable.”
At the direction of Mike Butcher, the Diamondbacks’ pitching coach, De La Rosa made an important adjustment. Usually emotional on the mound, Bucher wants the right to develop a rhythm and pace to throw without thinking. The aim is to stay away from the cerebral game and concentrated solely on execution.
In recent appearances, the results have been telling. Over his last six games and three starts, De La Rosa’s ERA is 2.21, and that factors out to giving up five earned runs in 20.1 innings.
COMPLETING THE MOVE
After the Diamondbacks sent reliever Dominic Leone to AAA Reno following Wednesday night’s game, the team made a corresponding move. On Thursday, the Diamondbacks recalled right-hander Jake Barrett from Reno.
In six games this season with Arizona at the major league level, Barrett had a 3.38 ERA, and allowed three earned runs in 7.0 innings. In three games at Reno, Barrett was 1-0 with one save in 2.2 scoreless innings.
With a 3-game series against Colorado, the home stand concludes this weekend. On Friday night, lefty Robbie Ray (1-0, 3.80 ERA) gets the start for Arizona, and draws righty Tyler Chatwood (2-2, 3.47) as his opponent at 6:40 p.m. On Saturday at 5:10 p.m., righty Zack Greinke 2-2, 6.16) makes his second start of the season against Colorado and right-hander Chad Bettis (2-1, 3.77) gets the call for the Rockies. In Sunday’s finale, righty Shelby Miller (0-2, 0-2, 8.59) starts for Arizona, and the Rockies were scheduled to start lefty Jorge De La Rosa. On Wednesday, the Rox put De La Rosa on the DL, and have not named a starter for Sunday.
After the Rockies series, the Diamondbacks hit the road for a 9-game trip. After three in Miami, three in Atlanta and three with the Rockies in Denver, the Diamondbacks are back in Chase Field May 12 for four with the Giants and three with the Yankees.