Bettis' improvement a bright spot for Rox

Bettis' improvement a bright spot for Rox

SAN DIEGO -- Saturday night's 5-0 loss to the Padres didn't help the Rockies realize their postseason hopes. But at least right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis kept his own playoff dream alive, if the team holds onto a Wild Card berth.

Bettis, who didn't appear in the Majors until August because of a bout with testicular cancer, started for the first time since giving up five runs in one-third of an inning at Arizona on Sept. 14. But he accounted for himself positively while throwing 85 pitches over 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball.

The outing was shortened and Bettis took the loss because of one mistake, a wild pitch that put a runner in scoring position before Yangervis Solarte's RBI single with two outs in the fifth. However, Bettis displayed improved fastball command, which allowed him to use his secondary pitches, and he pitched around seven hits and two walks while striking out three.

"Better, I thought," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "His velocity was up. He kept the ball down, mixed in more curveballs. Overall, just the one run. With an abundance of pitchers in the 'pen, we were able to do things like we did tonight and go to guys a little earlier than what you might normally do during a regular-season game over the first five months."

Bettis yielded just three runs in 14 innings in his first two starts, both for no-decisions. But he had a 9.14 ERA and .310 batting average against in his next five outings, and was held out to work on delivery issues that created poor command.

"There were some things that I worked on this last week, and it definitely helped," Bettis said. "I felt better connected."

On Saturday, he dealt with baserunners in every inning but pitched around runners in scoring position in the first three frames. With two on and one out in the second, for example, he retired Solarte on a line drive to left and Hunter Renfroe on a weak infield dribbler.

Bettis nearly escaped trouble in the fifth. A wild pitch that allowed Wil Myers, who had walked, to advance was his big lament. The Solarte single was Bettis' last pitch.

"Stamina-wise, I was fine," said Bettis, who said he could have lasted 100 pitches. "There was a big mistake to Solarte with that bounced changeup that got away. I felt like that was a really poorly executed pitch on my part and put [catcher Jonathan] Lucroy in bad position to block that ball.

"But I felt the best I've felt so far."

The Rockies, who have lost five of their last six (three of the last four in shutouts), finished the night one game ahead of the Brewers and 1 1/2 up on the Cardinals in the race for the second National League Wild Card. Bettis is expected to have one more start, which could determine whether he is part of the staff should the Rockies advance to the postseason.

"We're not there yet," Bettis said. "I feel like we're just taking it a day at a time right now. Every game matters. We've go to wipe this one away and focus on tomorrow."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. 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.