Chatwood calms nerves with brilliant start

Righty blanks Cubs over 7 frames in third game back from TJ surgery

Chatwood calms nerves with brilliant start

CHICAGO -- The Tommy John surgery that kept Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood out of the Majors from April 29, 2014, to April 6 this year -- his second such operation -- is no longer an event that brings nervousness when he remembers it. It's much closer to just a line in his bio.

On Sunday, Chatwood was perfect for 4 2/3 innings and held the Cubs to two hits in seven innings in a 2-0 victory at Wrigley Field. For Chatwood -- who underwent the first operation on his right elbow while in high school -- the 100-pitch, seven-strikeout performance had more to do with winning a series than celebrating arm health.

"I think it's up there after the last two years," Chatwood said. "But the biggest thing is to come in here and win a series against a really good team."

It was his 13th career start of seven or more innings, his fifth since joining the Rockies in a trade with the Angels (for catcher Chris Iannetta) after the 2011 season. 

Rockies manager Walt Weiss said, "Chatwood was outstanding. Think about the fact he's been away for a long time, a couple of years. He's pitching very well for us. His first few outings for us have been outstanding. To shut that lineup down, that's quite a feat."

Chatwood (2-1) located his cutter early, clearing the way for his two-seam and four-seam fastballs and changeup. Through four spotless innings, he threw first-pitch strikes to eight of the 12 batters.

"He had a set plan and he wasn't getting away from it," Rockies catcher Tony Wolters said.

Chatwood needed Carlos Gonzalez's sliding catch to rob Anthony Rizzo of extra bases to open the sixth. With two outs, Chatwood walked Jorge Soler and gave up a Javier Baez single to left before forcing David Ross into a fielder's choice. Chatwood labored some in the sixth, when opposing pitcher Jon Lester doubled to lead off before Chatwood induced a Dexter Fowler popup, fanned Jason Heyward and worked a fly ball from Ben Zobrist.

But Chatwood needed just 10 pitches in the seventh, which allowed Weiss to hand the ball to Miguel Castro and Jake McGee, who had an eventful ninth, to finish the shutout. Chatwood finished with 14 first-pitch strikes against 24 batters faced, and 63 strikes total.

The difference in his lone loss of the season his last time out was the two two-out homers Chatwood allowed to the Giants' Hunter Pence and Trevor Brown. With a dangerous Cubs lineup, Chatwood didn't have time to be haunted.

"All I'm worried about is executing the pitch I want to throw," Chatwood said. "You can't really control what happens after the ball leaves your hand. We had some really good defensive plays behind me and Tony called a really good game."

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