While the inconsistency of Diamondbacks right-hander Rubby De La Rosa is well documented, there is one aspect overlooked.
Over the course of the season, De La Rosa had a tendency to self-implode with walks and home runs. The unknown variable was his ability to pitch, and pitch well, in a tight game.
By some accounts, De La Rosa passed this test Saturday when he was able to hold a slight lead early and made it stand.
After the Diamondbacks staked De La Rosa to a two-run lead in the opening inning, the native of the Dominican Republic settled into a constructive groove and proceeded to hand-cuff the visiting Milwaukee Brewers.
The result was clearly De La Rosa’s best outing of the season, and resulted in a 2-0 victory over the Brewers before 34,957 on Randy Johnson Hall of Fame bobble head night.
When he was pulled after eight innings, De La Rosa allowed the Brewers four scattered hits, including two in the third inning, and kept Milwaukee hitters off-balance all night.
Addressing the issue of endurance, De La Rosa also registered 113 pitches and that was the second-most this season. His highest pitch count was 115 recorded on April 18 against the Giants.
What was encouraging to the Diamondbacks was De La Rosa’ ability to hold on to that early lead.
“Everything was working, and I kept the ball moving up and down,” De La Rosa said afterward. “Now, I’m staying patient and finishing pitches. When I keep the ball, there’s a big difference.”
Labeling De La Rosa still a “work-in-progress,” manager Chip Hale indicated the tolerance of the organization is beginning to pay dividends. All season, Hale said De La Rosa has “electric stuff,” but in recent starts, there’s a transformation at work.
“While his stuff continues to be electric, he is starting to pitch,” Hale said. “He showed (Saturday) what he can do when he keeps the ball down. His change was good and he picked up some strikeouts on high pitches.”
When De La Rosa struck out Gerardo Parra with a 97 mile-per-hour fast ball up and away to the left-handed hitter to start the eighth, he showed there was a bit more left in the tank.
After fanning Parra, De La Rosa walked catcher Jonathon Lucroy, and that prompted a visit to the mound from Hale.
“When Chip came out, Rubby told him, ‘I want the hitter,’” said catcher Welington Castillo. “So, Chip left him in and he pitched out of it. (Saturday, De La Rosa) had really good fast ball command, and he has confidence to throw any pitch at any time.”
De La Rosa proceeded to get Ryan Braun on a fly to center, and ended the inning by getting Carlos Gomez to ground out.
In the first inning, the Diamondbacks spotted De La Rosa that two-run cushion, and the right-hander then took command.
With one out in the opening frame, A. J. Pollock walked and scored on a double from Paul Goldschmidt, who later came cross on a single off the bat of Jake Lamb.
Then, the offense turned the game over to De La Rosa.
“We encourage all pitchers to pitch each hitter like it’s a 0-0 game,” Hale pointed out. “(De La Rosa) will get the opportunity to throw every fifth day, and build what he did (Saturday).”
There was some concern after catcher Welington Castillo was hit on the left elbow with a pitched ball in the first inning.
Gutting out the pain, he ended up catching the entire game, but his status going forward is uncertain.
When Castillo met with reporters after the game, he sported a heavily wrapped bandage curled around left elbow.
“I had an x-ray on it, and waiting for the result,” he said. “I feel good, but we’ll see what happens.”
Should Castillo sustain a significant injury, the Diamondbacks would be down to Oscar Hernandez and no back-up.
Before Saturday’s game, manager Chip Hale indicated Jarrod Saltalamacchia was taking batting practice and could begin to appear in rehab games. Saltalamacchia has been on the DL since July 12 with a strain on the left side of his neck.
With a first inning double, Paul Goldschmidt moved into sole possession of fifth place on the Diamondbacks’ all-time doubles list with 151.
The hit enabled Goldschmidt to surpass Steve Finley, with whom he was tied at 150 doubles.
By the end of the season, Goldschmidt should surpass Chad Tracy (153), Miguel Montero (172) and Stephen Drew (176).
The all-time leader is Luis Gonzalez with 310 doubles, and Chris Young is second with 198.
The current home stand ends Sunday with a 1:10 p.m. start against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (6-6, 4.87 ERA) gets the ball from manager Chip Hale and opposes veteran right-hander Matt Garza (5-10, 5.23).
Gates open at 11:00 a.m., one half-hour earlier, so fans can watch Randy Johnson’s Hall of Fame induction speed on the video board.
Then, the Diamondbacks embark on a 10-game road trip to Seattle, Houston and Washington.