DENVER -- Left-hander Tyler Anderson tied his career high with 10 strikeouts and benefitted from home runs from Mark Reynolds and Nolan Arenado as the National League West-leading Rockies defeated the D-backs, 9-1, on Saturday night at Coors Field.
After not going more than 5 2/3 innings and yielding no fewer than four runs in all six previous starts, and four or more earned runs in five of them, Anderson (2-3) went six innings and held the D-backs to one run on six hits. He retired 11 of his last 12, nine with strikeouts, after giving up six runs, including three homers, last Saturday at Arizona.
"It's not like we had been constantly making adjustments in between starts," said Anderson, who fanned 10 in a loss at Milwaukee last Aug. 24. "It's just that my plan of attack had been off. It was not a big mechanical thing, just executing my pitches."
Anderson has a 3.42 ERA in 15 career starts at Coors. Of pitchers with five or more starts, his ERA is fourth-lowest behind Clay Hensley (3.03 in 13 games, five starts), Ian Kennedy (3.10, 10 starts) and Josh Beckett (3.28, six starts).
Anderson and new catcher Ryan Hanigan, who joined the Rockies this week and is in his 11th season, discussed strategy with pitching coach Steve Foster the past couple days. And Anderson made it work. Hanigan noticed the fastball was at about mid-thigh in the first couple innings, then lowered his target and Anderson followed him. Then he was able to work up and down, as well as both sides of the plate.
"It always comes down to execution," Hanigan said. "He was great. He pitched out of some jams early, and he settled down and was pretty dominant."
The D-backs managed to hit just two balls out of the infield all night long -- a double by Brandon Drury and a single by Gregor Blanco -- both of which came in the second inning. No Rockies outfielder recorded an out.
"He was making some quality pitches with some really good changeups," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "The fastball velo was being used to set up some secondary pitches. He had a number of strikeouts. You do that against our club, you're doing a lot right. He deserves some credit tonight."
Reynolds' two-run shot in the first inning was his team-high 10th homer of the season, and Arenado, who entered in a 6-for-29 skid, led off the third with his eighth homer, as all eight position players managed a hit. The Rockies totaled 14 hits.
"We've had games where nobody's hitting and we've had games where everybody's hitting," Reynolds said. "We've got to sync up the pitching and the hitting."
D-backs starter Patrick Corbin (2-4), gave up season highs for home runs (Reynolds and Arenado), hits (nine) and runs (eight, all earned). Corbin had held the Rockies scoreless for 6 1/3 innings of his last start, a no-decision in the D-backs' 2-0, 13-inning victory Sunday, but the rematch played out differently.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED What trouble? Anderson had been tripped up by big innings after something bad happens. But after two infield singles and his own throwing error put runners at second and third in the first inning, Anderson looked much like the pitcher who managed a 3.54 ERA (remember, pitching mostly at Coors) as a rookie in 19 starts last year. Anderson fanned Jake Lamb on an 83.5 mph changeup, then coaxed a groundout from Yasmany Tomas.
"I think it was a tough night all the way around," Lovullo said. "We had runners in scoring position, but we didn't push any runs across."
Anderson found a positive in the traffic on balls that didn't leave the infield.
"Last year that happened a lot, so I felt like I was getting closer to where I needed to be, because that's the kind of contact you want to see," Anderson said.
Remember, this is Coors: Unable to solve D-backs starter Zack Greinke in a 6-3 loss, the Rockies fell to 7-7 Friday at Coors -- where they're supposed to dominate. But Charlie Blackmon's first-inning leadoff double sparked a four-hit inning that included Arenado's RBI single and Reynolds' homer -- measured at 111.2 mph, which was his highest exit velocity this season and his fourth-highest exit velocity on a homer since Statcast™ began measuring in 2015.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Under scoring rules, a pitcher can receive a save for finishing the game with "at least three innings," and the lead when the pitcher enters doesn't matter. Well, lefty Chris Rusin earned his first career save that way Saturday night. It was the Rockies' first save earned under that rule since Jordan Lyles did it last July 5 at San Francisco. A save of three or more innings has occurred just 17 times in the Rockies' history, spanning 25 seasons.
WELCOME BACK, CUTTER
Anderson's fastball-changeup combination is what makes him special, but the cutter is another weapon, with its late movement inside against right-handed hitters. But this year, Statcast™ revealed that hitters crushed the cutter, including a 94.2 mph exit velocity with a 15.2-degree launch angle; those numbers were 81.6 mph and 1.4 degrees last year. No wonder he was using it just 19 percent of the time this year, as opposed to 26 percent last year.
On Saturday, he threw it just 18 times in 103 pitches (17.4 percent), but it was very effective. He employed it for half (four) of his third strikes. Three of them were called. Four other cutters were called strikes. The only one that was put in play had an exit velocity of 58.1 mph.
"Best cutter we've seen all season from him," Rockies manager Bud Black said.
The D-backs got a call overturned and saved shortstop Nick Ahmed an error at the same time in the second inning. Blackmon hit a grounder to short that Ahmed threw high to first. Paul Goldschmidt leaped to catch the throw, and first base umpire Mark Ripperger ruled that Blackmon touched first before Goldschmidt's foot came down. The call was overturned after a brief review.
WHAT'S NEXT D-backs:Taijuan Walker gets the start as the D-backs wrap up a three-game series with the Rockies and a six-game road trip which also included a stop in Washington. Walker is looking to bounce back from a rough start against the Nationals in which he allowed three runs while lasting just 4 2/3 innings.
Rockies: Right-hander Tyler Chatwood (2-4, 5.40 ERA) has had several dominant stretches, but walks and homers (nine allowed) have been an issue. He'll strive for consistency when he faces the D-backs in the finale of the three-game series Sunday at 1:10 p.m. MT.