For Johan Santana, it was just another outstanding July. To Jorge De La Rosa, it was a second straight month to remember.
De La Rosa set a franchise record by winning his seventh consecutive start and the Colorado Rockies beat New York 4-2 on Thursday night, earning a split in the day-night doubleheader and snapping the Mets‘ five-game winning streak.
“I feel great. I feel more relaxed right now,” De La Rosa said. “I think I’m pitching very good so I just have to be focused every game I go out and pitch.”
The Mets won the opener 7-0 behind Santana, who struck out eight in seven sharp innings. Angel Berroa had a two-run double in New York’s five-run second and David Wright also drove in two runs.
“A well-located fastball makes the whole difference, and that’s what I was doing today,” Santana said. “I was able to command my fastball better than before and then that opens up the strike zone.”
Clint Barmes hit a tiebreaking two-run homer and De La Rosa pitched 6 1-3 solid innings in the second game for the Rockies, who avoided a four-game series sweep with the victory in the makeup of Wednesday night’s rainout. Troy Tulowitzki had a nice all-around nightcap, robbing Luis Castillo of a hit with a great play at shortstop and contributing a couple of key at-bats.
“It was a big win, one of our bigger ones,” Tulowitzki said.
Fernando Tatis had an outstanding diving catch in left and a solo homer for the Mets, who finished with just six hits.
Jeff Francoeur‘s fourth-inning sacrifice fly gave New York the lead in the second game but Ryan Spilborghs singled in Tulowitzki in the sixth, tying it at 1 and ending Colorado’s scoreless streak at 27 innings. It was the Mets‘ longest shutout streak since a 28-inning stretch from May 22-26, 2004.
The Rockies went ahead for good in the seventh. De La Rosa hit a leadoff double off Jonathon Niese (1-1). After Tatis robbed Seth Smith of his third hit, Barmes belted a drive to left for his 14th homer.
Niese departed after Todd Helton singled and Tulowitzki hit Brian Stokes‘ first pitch off the wall in left for a run-scoring triple, increasing Colorado’s lead to 4-1.
“I made a few mistakes and they made me pay for them,” Niese said.
De La Rosa (9-7) surrendered Tatis’ sixth homer in the bottom half and left after Daniel Murphy flied out. The left-hander allowed three hits to improve to 9-1 in his last 10 starts, the only loss coming on June 16 against Tampa Bay. He is 5-0 with a 2.50 ERA in six games this month, including his only relief appearance of the year on July 12 against Atlanta.
“Jorge De La Rosa was terrific,” manager Jim Tracy said. “He kept us in the game.”
Four relievers combined to finish, with Huston Street working the ninth for his 26th save.
Santana (12-8) allowed four hits and walked one in his first career outing against Colorado, closing out the month with a 3-2 record and a sparkling 1.82 ERA in five starts. He also improved to 20-11 with a 3.34 ERA in 53 career games in July.
“Obviously, our ace did his job today,” said Alex Cora, who had two of the Mets‘ 11 hits in the opener.
Bobby Parnell and Tim Redding each pitched an inning to finish the four-hitter.
New York’s five-run second was its biggest inning since it scored five in the first at Washington on June 7. The Mets have scored five or more runs in just six of Santana’s 21 starts this season.
“When you’re dealing with a starter of Johan Santana‘s stature you can’t afford to have an inning like we had in the second inning,” Tracy said. “You spot him a five-run lead and the hole is close to being impossible to climb out of.”
Jason Hammel (5-6) lasted just 1 1-3 innings for the Rockies, allowing five runs and seven hits in his shortest outing of the season. The right-hander was 4-2 with a 2.08 ERA in eight road starts before the loss.
“You take three out of four from a very good ballclub, that should give you a lot of confidence going forward,” Wright said.
NOTES: Mets general manager Omar Minaya has apologized to a beat reporter for questioning his motives and credibility during a bizarre news conference Monday. The writer accepted the apology, saying the GM’s “remorse was sincere” when they met Wednesday. … Mets C Brian Schneider got a cortisone shot for his balky left knee on Wednesday and is expected to play Friday night against Arizona. … The Mets designated RHP Elmer Dessens for assignment and recalled C Robinson Cancel from Triple-A Buffalo for some insurance behind the plate. … Tulowitzki is batting .588 (10 for 17) over his last six games.