Rusch gave up two runs in six innings in leading the Rockies past the Padres, the team that released him earlier this season, 6-3, at Coors Field on Friday night in front of 33,147 fans.
Often in such cases, the pitcher is cursed by the extra shot of adrenaline. But Rusch didn't feel such a rush while holding the Padres to seven hits, inducing 10 ground-ball outs and striking three. He threw 71 percent of his pitches for strikes, and was just as good after a 54-minute rain delay as before.
After sitting out last season because of a blood clot in his lungs, Rusch appreciated the chance the Padres offered him. Never mind that it ended after a relief appearance against the Rockies on May 9.
"It changes a little bit of perspective when you go from sitting at home, not knowing if you're ever going to play again, to coming back and having an opportunity, especially at the big league level, to pitch again," said Rusch.
Rusch (5-3), who is 4-1 with a 4.30 ERA in his seven starts with the Rockies with a 3.55 ERA, brightened the outlook of the Rockies.
The Rockies had lost three of four to the Nationals to open this important homestand and lost much of the momentum they gained during a 6-4 road trip. Now, they trail the National League West-leading Diamondbacks by seven games, and still have dreams -- at least as much as a team 12 games under .500 can dream.
But solid pitching trumps dreams any day. Last year, the Rockies dipped into the Minor League system and the waiver wire to fashion a rotation that pitched well enough for a late run that took them to the playoffs. Rusch's effort was reminiscent of that.
"No fireworks," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said of Rusch's outing. "No bright lights. Real business-like."
Ian Stewart's homer, on a first pitch in the second inning against Jake Peavy (8-8), gave the Rockies a 2-0 lead. The delay hit later in the bottom of the second. It was long enough that Rusch said he had to throw in the batting cage, but not long enough to affect his rhythm.
But in the Padres' fifth, Chase Headley's double, Nick Hundley's triple and Tadahito Iguchi's single led to two runs with no outs. With one out and runners at second and third, however, Rusch forced grounders by Luis Rodriguez and Brian Giles.
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"I knew getting two off Peavy was hard enough as it was," Rusch said. "If they were to go ahead there, we could be in trouble.
Rusch was 1-2 with a 6.41 ERA in 12 relief appearances before the Padres released him. He has said it turned out for the best, since six of his seven appearances with the Rockies have been starts.
Rusch was popular with his Padres teammates, but he set that aside.
"I didn't feel like it was anything different than any other start, other than I faced some guys that you shared the locker room with earlier this year," Rusch said.
Garrett Atkins, who went 3-for-4 and is 7-for-12 in his last two games, knocked an RBI double off Peavy in the sixth for a 3-2 lead. Clint Barmes knocked an RBI single, and Atkins added a two-run double that fell between center fielder Scott Hairston and right fielder Giles in the seventh for a 6-2 lead.
Giles homered off Taylor Buchholz in the eighth, but Brian Fuentes pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.