While much of the talk amongst those who follow the Colorado Rockies has focused on rookie pitcher Jon Gray is recent weeks, another Rockies hurler has actually outperformed Gray over his previous two starts.
While Gray has allowed two runs in his previous 11 innings against the New York Mets and San Diego Padres, teammate Chris Rusin has surrendered just one run during his last 15 innings pitched against the same two teams. Included in that impressive number was Rusin’s 5-0 complete game victory over the Padres on Sunday. The shutout was the first by a Rockies pitcher since Tyler Matzek turned the trick in September of 2014 and just the 19th in Colorado history.
“If you keep the ball down, pitch to both sides of the plate and change speeds, you can pitch here,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said after Rusin’s stellar outing. “Rusin is a heck of a competitor, and he’s unflappable. That was an impressive performance.”
When Rusin was picked up by the Rockies after being placed on waivers by the Chicago Cubs last September, the move didn’t raise many eyebrows. After all, Rusin hadn’t stood out much during his days with the Cubs, posting a 4-9 record and 4.97 ERA over three seasons. However, since coming to Colorado, Rusin has improved in a number of categories. He’s lowered his walks per nine innings from 3.3 with the Cubs to 2.3 in Colorado and raised his strikeouts per nine innings from 5.4 to 6.2. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved from 1.63 to 2.70.
This season has been a work in progress for Rusin, who started the season in Triple-A and was called up for a short stint before being demoted on May 7. He was recalled on May 26 to replace an injured Jorge De La Rosa in the rotation and allowed just one run that night in a no-decision at Cincinnati, then followed that with a shutout performance in 4.2 innings to earn his first win as a Rockie in Philadelphia.
“In this game, you can’t have a lot of emotion because a lot of things happen,” Rusin told the Denver Post earlier in the season. “I went through this thing last year with the Cubs. I’m used to it. Going up, going down. I just try to do what they tell me to do.”
After logging a 0.77 ERA in May, Rusin struggled in June and July, posting a 6.28 and 4.50 ERA, respectively. Part of Rusin’s problems in June came via the long ball as he gave up two homers in two consecutive starts against Miami and Houston that helped jump his ERA from 1.45 to 5.14. August, however, has seen the southpaw post a 1.80 ERA in three starts. He also hasn’t allowed a homer this month.
Rusin has shown good command as he has walked one or less batters in nine of his 16 outings this season. With a strong August, he is making a solid case to be a key part of the Rockies’ rotation in 2016. If he keeps progressing, he and Gray could play a big role in Colorado’s pitching fortunes next season and beyond.