Chatwood continues Rockies' solid pitching

Chatwood continues Rockies' solid pitching

Chatwood continues Rockies' solid pitching
SAN FRANCISCO -- Suddenly the Rockies are influencing the National League West race, and they're surprisingly doing it with pitching.

Friday night, Tyler Chatwood pitched five scoreless innings and the bullpen held on for a 3-0 victory over the first-place Giants at AT&T Park in the opener of a three-game set.

Friday's shutdown work came on the heels of the Rockies winning two of three over the Dodgers, including a 2-0 blanking Monday night. The Rockies entered Friday with ERAs of 6.27 from their starters and 5.42 overall. But Chatwood (2-2) became the third starter to leave a game scoreless this road trip. Granted, Drew Pomeranz on Monday and Alex White on Tuesday went four innings each and weren't eligible for the win. Nonetheless, the Rockies have two shutouts this trip -- double their season total before the trip.

It was an important outing for Chatwood, who held the Giants to three hits with two strikeouts and two walks. Unable to make the starting rotation out of Spring Training, Chatwood began the year in the Rockies' bullpen, but has spent most of the year in the Minors and showed little aptitude for bullpen work. However, in his first Major League start this season, he gave up three runs and threw 76 pitches in 3 1/3 innings against the Giants on Sunday.

"I wouldn't say nerves got to me last Sunday; I just think I was erratic in the zone," Chatwood said.

Adam Ottavino pitched around two one-out walks in the seventh and finished his two innings scoreless, Matt Belisle threw a scoreless eighth and Rafael Betancourt earned his 20th save. With three wins on what will be a six-game trip, the last-place Rockies (41-69) clinched their first non-losing road trip since going 3-3 at Milwaukee and Pittsburgh from April 20-25. The Giants (61-52) slipped into a first-place tie with the Dodgers, who won at Miami on Friday.

With Jhoulys Chacin nearing his comeback from a nerve issue in his chest that has kept him off the Major League mound since May 1, Chatwood, who was pressed into 25 starts last year with the Angels before joining the Rockies in an offseason trade, needed a strong outing to earn more chances.

He delivered, throwing 71 pitches and facing 18 batters through five innings before manager Jim Tracy removed him under the guidelines of the club's four-starter paired pitching system. Rockies internal stats say facing a lineup a third time is problematic, so Chatwood didn't have to do it. Strong bullpen work allowed Chatwood to hold onto just the sixth win for a Rockies starter since the system was instituted in late June.

"I talked to him after his outing tonight -- he did a terrific job," Tracy said. "What's important now is follow-up. You took a step forward. Now take another one. Take a few more between now and the end of the season.

"In his next side session, build upon what he did tonight, and that's throw strikes with his fastball. It could be even better than what we saw tonight, because he still had his fair share of 2-0 counts. But he had as live a fastball as he's had all season."

The Giants' Brandon Crawford echoed what the Rockies have been saying since Spring Training -- Chatwood's stuff is electric, even if his location is inconsistent.

"He got behind a little bit but he battled back, and he has some good pitches, and he just got out of it," Crawford said.

Chatwood had help from catcher Wilin Rosario, who not only doubled twice and scored once against Giants starter Tim Lincecum (6-12), but caught two runners stealing in tough situations.

Chatwood walked first-inning leadoff man Angel Pagan and was behind in the count to Marco Scutaro when Rosario caught Pagan stealing, and Chatwood was able to escape.

"That helped out a lot. Leadoff walks nearly always come back to hurt you. To get that guy off the basepaths really helped out, kind of got me in a rhythm."

With one out and two on in the fifth, Chatwood fanned Linecum, who had been unable to bunt a ball into play earlier in the at-bat, and Rosario erased Crawford at second.

Dexter Fowler singled in a run in the third. Rosario doubled and scored on Tyler Colvin's single in the fourth. Colvin singled in the sixth, stole second, took third on DJ LeMahieu's bunt and scored on pinch-hitter Chris Nelson's sacrifice fly to deep left.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.