DENVER — The Colorado Rockies on Friday will turn to their most consistent starter this season, hoping another strong performance by Chad Bettis will help the team end a two-game slide.
But regardless of how well Bettis pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers, he will need some support from the Rockies’ offense, which has been punchless in an 8-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday and a 5-2 setback to the Brewers on Thursday.
Bettis (4-1, 2.05 ERA) will face Brandon Woodruff, who will be recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs and start in place of injured Zach Davies. Davies is on the disabled list with right rotator cuff irritation, and he cut short a bullpen session Wednesday.
Woodruff is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA this season for the Brewers in five games (one start), and he is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in four starts at Colorado Springs. He is 0-0 with a 1.93 ERA in one career start against the Rockies. That game was at Coors Field last Aug 19, and Woodruff gave up five hits and one run in 4 2/3 innings.
Getting five effective innings out of Woodruff will please the Brewers, given how dominant their bullpen has been. On Thursday, four relievers combined to allow one hit in 3 2/3 scoreless innings, lowering the Brewers’ bullpen ERA to 2.54. That ranks second in the majors.
Corey Knebel, who made his first appearance Wednesday after a month on the disabled list because of a strained left hamstring, pitched a scoreless eighth Thursday with two strikeouts, facing the top of the Rockies lineup. In the absence of Knebel, who had a 1.78 ERA and 39 saves last year, Jeremy Jeffress has moved into the closer’s role. He struck out the side in the ninth Thursday to earn his third save.
“We’ve got a deep bullpen,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’ve got multiple guys that you can consider using in the back of the game. It just gives you a lot of choices.”
Counsell said he is less concerned about what inning he will use his back-end relievers than what hitters they will face.
Jhoulys Chacin, who began his career with the Rockies and started and won Thursday for the Brewers, said, “With the bullpen we have, if you have a lead, you have a good chance to win the game, especially in Colorado.”
Bettis, who is 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in four career starts against the Brewers, worked seven scoreless innings Saturday at New York and held the Mets to six hits with one walk and two strikeouts in Colorado’s 2-0 win. The Rockies have won five of seven games started by Bettis, who has pitched seven innings in each of his past two outings and has gone at least seven innings in four of his seven starts this season.
Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster said Bettis, who is 29 and the Rockies’ most experienced starter, is a teaching tool for the younger members of the rotation.
“How he pitches is something that other guys can see,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Not overpowering stuff, but changing speeds, moving the ball in and out, pitching to the scouting report. All these things that our other starters take notice of will help them over the long haul.”
Bettis made nine starts last season after recovering from testicular cancer. He was a power pitcher before his illness. These days, Bettis has average velocity and relies far more on command.
“I think pitching at 90-92 (mph) or 88-91 (mph), whatever it is that day, man, it’s so much more fun,” Bettis said, “because you’re in command, you’re in control of what you’re going to do to that hitter. And it goes beyond that, because you don’t want to be in command of that hitter during (just) that at-bat but through the course of the whole game.
“And I think learning how to use each pitch (not only) independently of one another but simultaneously with each other has helped me evolve into the thought process of how chess matches work in pitching.”