DENVER — Baseball is a game of inches. But when you lose your starter after two innings, you start talking yards. The Rockies lost starter Antonio Senzatela in Monday’s series opener against the Giants before he could throw a pitch in the third, and though they battled to keep it a close game before losing, 7-6, in the ninth, the bigger loss could hit the team in the coming days, if, as manager Bud Black suspects is likely, Senzatela has to go on the injured list.
“Hopefully not,” Senzatela said of the prospect of his hitting the IL with a lower back strain. “I got in my mind, ‘Don’t miss too much time, or don’t even miss a start.’ I told them I think I can be right for my next start.”
The tightness in his back that led to his departure after warming up before the third inning initially hit him a few days ago, when he was working out between starts. He felt good before Monday’s game, but a first-inning comebacker to the mound from Joc Pederson triggered the tightness, and it only got worse from there.
“On the comebacker, the ball hit my glove, and when I got down and twisted around to first, I felt my back tighten,” Senzatela said. “After I sat down in the first and second inning and went back [to the mound], it was crazy.”
Black isn’t one to jump to conclusions about a player’s health, generally taking a wait-and-see approach in the immediate aftermath of an injury that isn’t easy to be certain about, but he didn’t waste time making a projection about Senzatela’s prospects.
“It’s too early to tell, but more than likely he’ll be headed towards the injured list,” Black said.
In Senzatela’s favor, the schedule can buy him a little time, with the team having an off-day Thursday, meaning the Rockies wouldn’t necessarily need another starter until a week from Tuesday. Black mentioned Ty Blach — who came in in long relief for Senzatela — as a potential candidate for a spot start on Sunday, Senzatela’s next scheduled start.
“Or we have a day off, and [since Chad] Kuhl pitches tomorrow, Sunday would be his regular day to pitch,” Black said. “So we have some options.”
Senzatela had been pitching well before he left the game, allowing a leadoff walk in the first and a two-out single in the second while striking out three and inducing three ground-ball outs. He threw 33 pitches, 20 for strikes.
“I didn’t like the leadoff walk to start the game, that wasn’t advisable,” Black said. “But he got Pederson and he struck the next couple of guys out. Second inning was fine. Then he got hurt. But his stuff looked good.”
Blach started the third with a homer to the first batter he faced, a 438-foot drive to left from catcher Curt Casali to tie the game at 1. Blach went on to retire six in a row before the Giants opened the fifth frame with a walk and a single to set up Casali’s second homer of the night — a three-run shot launched 416 feet into the left-field bleachers.
The loss marked the 11th straight the Rockies have suffered at the hands of the Giants, a streak that goes back to Aug. 15, 2021 — and includes seven consecutive home losses to the Giants.
“Obviously after this game, [the mood] is not great but we’ve been showing up every day, flushing the games from the night before, coming up with good attitude and good focus,” Ryan McMahon said of the second consecutive one-run loss. “We understand how early it is in the season, but that doesn’t make these losses hurt any less. All you can really do — man, I’ve been through three times now, three full seasons. All you can do is show up the next day and keep trying to do your job and play good baseball, so I think that’s what we’re going to do.”
McMahon homered in the sixth to bring the Rockies within a run and tied the game in the seventh with an RBI single before the Giants took the lead back in the ninth off closer Daniel Bard. McMahon’s error on a play to home with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh allowed a pair of runs that ended up being critical.
“I screwed us tonight,” McMahon said. “They scored two runs that they shouldn’t have had. We should have won this game and it’s just as plain and simple as that. It’s got to stop. I don’t necessarily know exactly what I need to do, but I guarantee that it won’t be from lack of work.”
The loss also put the Rockies under .500 for the first time since their Opening Day loss to the Dodgers.