Every rose has its thorns.
The De La Rosa of June and July never showed up at Citizen’s Bank Park.
The lefty struggled through five innings, giving up seven runs, all earned, on 10 hits. He struck out three, and walked no one, but gave up three home runs for the first time in his career.
Some of De La Rosa’s struggles resembled the first two months of the season. After getting two outs he lost his focus and ended up giving up runs. In the third inning De La Rosa gave up two home runs with two outs.
Both home runs in the third inning came on changeups that the lefty did not finish, resulting in the pitch staying up in the zone, a mistake that cannot be made at Citizen’s Bank Park.
In the fifth inning, De La Rosa again gave up a two-out home run, this time a three-run shot, to Jayson Werth. Werth deposited the ball into the right field seats, throwing his bat in excitement after hitting the ball. The home run buried the Rockies, putting them down 7-0.
Despite De La Rosa’s struggles, there was a silver lining.
The biggest issue for De La Rosa in the early part of his career has been his inability to shrug off struggles and minimize damage. Instead of bearing down and finding a way to get the next batter out, he would beat himself up, causing him to continue serving pitches up to the hitters.
On Wednesday it was different. Despite giving up seven runs, the hard-throwing lefty was able to give up the two out hit and still come back and deliver decent pitches.
While he did not have his best stuff, he was mentally stronger than what he showed early in the career. He still lost his focus, but was able to regain his composure and minimize damage after struggling. It was a sign of maturity.
While De La Rosa struggled, a team cannot win when its offense scores no runs.
The Rockies offense did wave at several bad pitches, and was off balance all night, but that was due less to bad offensive decisions as it was a credit to the phenomenal pitching of Phillies rookie J.A. Happ.
The young lefty whom the Rockies coveted in the offseason, dangling Garrett Atkins for him, dazzled on the mound. He was mixed in good fastballs with sweeping breaking pitches that caught the outside corner of the plate. He pitched perfectly to the scouting report, striking out Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes on high fastballs.
Happ pitched his second complete game shutout of the season, getting a huge standing ovation all the way through the ninth inning.
It was one of those games that the Rockies must simply tip their caps to the Phillies and get ready for another tough pitcher on Thursday.
In the series finale, the Rockies will face the brand new Phillie, reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, whom Philadelphia acquired from the Indians less than a week ago. It will be Lee’s home debut in a Phillies uniform after dominating in his debut in San Francisco.
The loss puts the Rockies a half game back from the Giants in the Wild Card race, and seven games back of the Dodgers in the National League West race.
While every game is important, games like Wednesday are a part of baseball. Sometimes a pitcher simply dominates an offense and gives little opportunity to get runs on the board. The key for the Rockies is to forget the game and focus on the opportunity to win a series on the road against the world champs, a huge accomplishment.