If the Colorado Rockies make a playoff run in 2014, a big reason why will be Jorge De La Rosa.
Remember when everyone wanted to get rid of De La Rosa? Remember when he gave up a grand slam to Madison Bumgarner? After Friday night's performance, all of De La Rosa's critics have gone back to their holes to hide.
Less than a month ago, there were comments all over social media from fans who wanted De La Rosa to be the odd man out when Jhoulys Chacin returned to the rotation. Of course, that was before the injuries to Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood.
On Friday night, after getting pushed back a few days due to a stiff back, De La Rosa flirted with a no-hitter. He walked to the mound in the 7th inning working on a shutout with the only Padres baserunner being a walk in the 2nd inning. A triple from Chris Denorfia to lead off the 7th ended the bid, but the performance was remarkable none-the-less.
It was clear early on that De La Rosa had his very best stuff. The lefty throws in the mid-90's, but that isn't the pitch that baffles batters. The changeup that De La Rosa throws is incredible. He delivers it the same as his fastball, but it falls off the table and either induces a ground ball or more often, a swing and miss. That change up was fluttering into the strike zone early and often on Friday, ensuring that the Padres wouldn't be having a fun night at the plate.
As impressive as the first six innings were from De La Rosa, what he did in the 7th was even more impressive. With the Rockies up only 1-0 and Denorfia on third base with no one out, De La Rosa got Everth Cabrera to ground out to second base with the infield drawn in on a 1-1 pitch. He then worked ahead of the dangerous Chase Headley before inducing a soft liner to LeMahieu at second base for the second out. With two outs and the lead off batter still at third base, it seemed like an ample time for De La Rosa's luck to run out. Instead, he got Carlos Quentin to pop up to third base, ending the threat.
After giving up the first hit of the game, De La Rosa didn't allow a ball out of the infield, preserving the lead for the Rockies.
While De La Rosa was phenomenal on the mound, nearly throwing a no-hitter, if that is all that was told about the game, more than half of the story would be missed. The Rockies lefty not only did it on the mound, he also took care of business at the plate.
In the bottom of the 5th inning, with Jordan Pacheco at first base, and LeMahieu at the plate and two outs and no score, the Rockies second baseman lined a double to right field. However, the ball was cut off before it went to the wall, and didn't allow Pacheco to score. It looked like it was for naught as De La Rosa stepped to the plate. Instead, De La Rosa helped his own cause, making solid contact and hitting the ball hard enough for Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko to misplay the grounder, allowing a hustling De La Rosa to reach first base and Pacheco to score the first run of the game.
While the at-bat put a much needed run on the board, it came with a huge cringe from Rockies fans, as De La Rosa's back clearly tightened up on his way to first base. After a visit from trainer Keith Dugger, De La Rosa remained in the game, but it was clear that his back was not at 100 percent.
After the game it was revealed that not only was De La Rosa dealing with a stiff back, he was also pitching through a swollen finger. After pitching the better part of the 2013 season, it seems that it might serve the Rockies well to make sure their ace lefty has some sort of injury. After all, he completed one of the best seasons in Rockies history with the injury a year ago, and he was at his absolute best on Friday night with his body hurting.
Since 2011, De La Rosa is 16-1 at Coors Field. Think about that statement. Give it some serious thought. This isn't the same type of statement that someone would make in Oakland if they had that same rate of success. This is Coors Field. This is the place that is supposed to destroy the careers of pitchers. This is a place where free agents give up millions of dollars just to pitch somewhere else.
After the performance on Friday night is it finally time to give De La Rosa his due? This is a guy who is in the final year of his contract, and despite winning 16 games in 2013, there was absolutely no talk of a contract extension this past offseason. Despite his ability to tackle the best hitter's park in the history of baseball, according to many, De La Rosa still gets very little credit.
Make no mistake, he may not get much credit, he may not be seen as the leader of this Rockies team, but if the Rockies have any intention of making a playoff run, the only way that happens is if De La Rosa continues to get the job done the way that he has been the past two seasons.