De La Rosa shows grit to keep Rox in game

Lefty battles through 6 scoreless but bullpen falters in loss

De La Rosa shows grit to keep Rox in game

DENVER -- Under more positive circumstances, Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa's six scoreless innings Wednesday night would have been celebrated for its craftiness. But after the bullpen wrought a 4-1 loss to the Nationals at Coors Field -- the Rockies' eighth in nine games -- De La Rosa was merely discussing strategy.

De La Rosa gave up four hits, struck out six and walked six while throwing a season-high 110 pitches. His walks were among the nine issued by the Rockies' pitchers, who have issued 19 in two losses to the Nats this week. But for De La Rosa's performance, in which he worked into and out of three sticky innings, was a good argument for the statement that all walks aren't created equal.

"I walked guys because I wanted to walk guys," De La Rosa said. "I wanted to pitch around them. I know when I have to walk people."

Everyone would love a game like lefty Chris Rusin's 5-0 complete-game, 106-pitch shutout of the Padres on Sunday afternoon. But that doesn't happen often. De La Rosa is the winningest pitcher in Rockies' history (76, but none in his last three starts) partly because he can navigate a batting order when he isn't dominating it.

"He can command the strike zone, and he can command balls at times," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He did that a few times tonight."

With two down in the fourth, De La Rosa walked Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Taylor on a total of nine pitches, then needed just two pitches to force a grounder from No. 8 hitter Wilson Ramos.

In a sixth inning that started with a leadoff walk to Yunel Escobar and a double by Ian Desmond, he walked Taylor intentionally with one out. Then De La Rosa watched Ramos line to shortstop Jose Reyes and fanned opposing pitcher Stephen Strasburg to leave the game with a 1-0 lead.

De La Rosa's best work came in the fifth inning against Bryce Harper with a runner at third and two down, when he used his best option -- his split-finger pitch that serves as a changeup -- for four of the five pitches to earn a swinging strikeout.

"I faced him in Washington and in the first at-bat [Wednesday, when he singled] he was looking fastball, all the time," De La Rosa said. "I threw the changeup and he didn't swing too good at it. He's a good hitter, but I think I made a good pitch right there."

Deriding the Rockies' bullpen is en vogue, but in De La Rosa's last two starts the Rockies were shut out by the Mets and two-hit by the Nats.

"I don't care if I got a no-decision as long as the team wins," De La Rosa said. "We're not playing well right now. That's what happens when you don't play well, but we have to keep pushing."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.