Making a spot start while the Rockies were making due with a four-man rotation, De La Rosa struck out a career-high eight in five one-hit innings to start the bullpen on the way to patching together a three-hit shutout. The 2-0 victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday night was Colorado's seventh in 10 games.
It might have been the least likely win on the current run.
The Rockies didn't have an RBI -- something that also happened in their most recent victory, 1-0, over the Giants on Wednesday night. Saturday's runs came on Sox first baseman Paul Konerko's fielding error in the seventh inning and pitcher Nick Masset's throwing error in the ninth. The offense went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
The Rockies also wasted Willy Taveras' two hits and career-high five stolen bases, one shy of Eric Young's club record on June 30, 1996, against the Dodgers.
Still, the oddest factor was De La Rosa's performance.
Jason Grilli (2-0) received the decision for striking out two and giving up one hit in 1 2/3 innings. But this is the same De La Rosa who went 1-3 with a 9.00 ERA in five starts and was taken out of the rotation after giving up seven runs, six earned, in 3 1/3 innings of a 20-5 shellacking at the hands of the Phillies on May 26.
What happened between then and Saturday?
"I'll tell you," De La Rosa said after leading the Rockies to their third shutout of the season. "When I've got good stuff and good command, I make a lot of outs."
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle simply asked De La Rosa to throw 80 pitches. He made it through five innings with a pitch to spare, and he kept the club in a scoreless tie, as the Sox's John Danks struck out six and pitched around five hits over six innings.
"I think we got more than we could've expected," Hurdle said. "First and foremost, a great outing. You saw fastball command, you saw first-pitch curveballs, you saw good sliders and changeups late in counts or strikeouts."
The Rockies had deliberated on bringing up a pitcher from Triple-A Colorado Springs or using Grilli as a starter on Saturday.
Now there's more deliberation for Thursday's game against the Indians. The plan was to recall left-hander Glendon Rusch from Colorado Springs. Rusch gave up 12 hits and six runs in 6 2/3 innings on Saturday night at Tucson in a high-scoring contest and was in line for a win.
Hurdle was asked if De La Rosa had put himself in consideration for Thursday.
"We have a lot of things to talk about," Hurdle said. "I actually was asked a couple of questions about why hadn't we moved De La Rosa [off the roster] from the press the last two weeks. So we'll figure it out. Give him some time, let everybody enjoy the moment, let him enjoy the moment."
The usual plan with such a "bullpen game" is for the starter to pitch like he is coming out of the bullpen and limit his repertoire. Catcher Yorvit Torrealba said that during the first inning, when De La Rosa fanned Orlando Cabrera to start it and Carlos Quentin to end it, the strategy moved to the advanced level.
"It was Quentin, I put a changeup down and he didn't want it," Torrealba said. "He wanted a slider down and in, and he could strike him out. He sent me the message, 'My slider's there.' That's all I needed."
With the Royals last May 13 at U.S. Cellular Field, De La Rosa gave up one run in seven innings during an 11-1 victory. Saturday was more of the same.
"De La Rosa threw a lot of breaking balls, and he was really good, because we kept chasing them," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We just couldn't pull the trigger at the right times."
Grilli, also familiar with the Sox from his days with the Tigers before the Rockies acquired him this season, said he was just trying to keep up with De La Rosa.
"The game ball goes to that guy," Grilli said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.