08/25/10 12:47 AM ET
Homers back De La Rosa in Rockies' win
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
The Rockies left-hander was excellent -- reminiscent of his incredible run at the end of last season when he went on a 16-3 tear to finish the year -- in pacing Colorado to a 5-2 win against the Braves.
It's been a long-awaited and patient comeback for the starter, who had the baseball community buzzing in Spring Training with a world of opportunity in front of him. Now, after having spent 67 games on the disabled list with a torn tendon in his left middle finger, the dangerous southpaw appears to have regained his dominant form.
And, boy, could the Rockies use him right now.
"Jorge De La Rosa is throwing the ball very reminiscent of what we saw an awful lot of last year," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
What the Rockies saw late last season and early into the spring was a crafty pitcher who could provide opponents with a formidable challenge behind ace Ubaldo Jimenez in the rotation. What the Braves saw Tuesday night was just that -- mixed in with six scattered hits, seven strikeouts and one walk in seven innings.
"De La Rosa was really tough and he gave up two," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He was as good as I've ever seen him."
The Colorado starter's first hiccup came in the top of the second -- shortly after Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez hammered his 26th homer into the right-field bullpen for a 2-0 lead -- when De La Rosa surrendered a solo shot to Atlanta shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
"Tonight, he made one bad pitch," Tracy said. "And that was obviously the first pitch fastball he threw to Alex Gonzalez early in the game."
Beyond that, De La Rosa allowed just one Atlanta runner to enter scoring position -- left fielder Matt Diaz, who came around to score on a single from Alex Gonzalez in the seventh.
"It's one of the best I've had all season," De La Rosa said of his outing. "Everything was working good today. My fastball was good and I was able to mix it up with my other pitches."
Leading 3-2 in the eighth, the Rockies tacked on two more insurance runs with a two-out single up the middle from center fielder Dexter Fowler, made possible by a passed ball on what would have been strike three to Clint Barmes.
Once De La Rosa -- who was visited by the Rockies training staff in the seventh, concerned about a jammed index finger on his throwing hand tweaked in an earlier at-bat -- took his leave, it was a bang-bang finale behind the sturdy arm of Matt Belisle and the third save in as many nights from closer Huston Street.
The Rockies clinched the series victory against the National League East-leading Braves, while taking their third win in a row and ninth of their last 11 at Coors Field. The club improves to 40-20 at the friendly confines, while 25-40 away from home.
"It's no secret by now," Street said. "If we magically start playing better on the road, we didn't' figure anything out. It's just baseball averaging itself back out. It's one of those anomalies. It is what it is."
What it's become is a brightening glimmer of playoff hope for Colorado, which was all but finished after another disappointing road trip. But the mini-winning streak coupled with consecutive Philadelphia losses has the Rockies knocking on the National League Wild Card door again, just five games back with 37 to play.
"We owe it to this city, we owe it to these fans to continue to play the game as hard as we've played it since Opening Day," Tracy said. "We signed up for 162, we play every pitch of 162 because we don't know what's going to happen. We know we need to win. A lot. And we've started to generate a little momentum for ourselves."
Joey Nowak is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.