PHILADELPHIA — When J.A. Happ`s 127th pitch of the night caught Troy Tulowitzki for a called strike three, he did more than make another sellout crowd roar in appreciation of a Phillies shutout.
He made manager Charlie Manuel`s decision about what to do with Philadelphia`s crowded rotation even tougher.
Happ stated his case to keep his spot with a career-high 10 strikeouts in his second shutout of the season, leading the Phillies to a 7-0 win over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night.
“I don`t think one start should affect the situation,” Happ said.
No, but 14 of them and Happ`s top-10 ranking in the National League in ERA is a strong argument. He four-hit the Rockies and was throwing in the low 90s in the ninth inning.
Manuel never wavered in letting the rookie left-hander go the distance.
“He earned the right to go out there,” Manuel said. “That`s how I look at it.”
But has he earned the right to keep his spot?
His competition was pitching 65 miles away in a rehab start for Double-A Reading — three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez. The 37-year-old right-hander struck out 11 in six innings against the New York Yankees` Trenton affiliate.
If Phillies officials are convinced Martinez can start in the major leagues, he likely would send Happ (8-2) to the bullpen.
Manuel says it`s still too early to talk about what the rotation will look like once Martinez joins the Phillies.
“Let me answer that later on,” he said. “I don`t feel like getting into that.”
Happ or Martinez. Martinez or Happ. It almost doesn`t matter who is pitching for the NL East leaders when they`re swinging the bat like they did against Jorge De La Rosa (9-8).
Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz all homered for Philadelphia. De La Rosa allowed seven runs in only five innings to end his personal seven-game winning streak, tying the longest active streak in the NL. He lost for the first time since June 16, ending a 7-for-7 stretch that set the franchise record for most consecutive starts with a win.
De La Rosa also took a one-hopper off his left arm in the fourth inning. He needed a visit with the trainer and a few warmup tosses before he resumed pitching.
By then, the Phillies were already ahead 4-0 and Happ was on his way to a shutout that lowered his ERA to 2.74.
“I felt like I was capable of doing it,” Happ said. “You never know if it`s going to happen.”
Ryan Howard singled in a run in the first and the Phillies added three more in the second. Feliz hit a solo homer to left, his seventh, and Rollins extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-run shot, continuing his torrid stretch since ending an 0-for-28 drought.
Werth, an NL All-Star, hit an opposite-field, three-run shot in the fifth for his 23rd homer.
Happ, who earned his first shutout June 27 at Toronto, got a standing ovation as he left the mound after the eighth. He heard his loudest cheers of the night when he doubled to deep center in the bottom half.
“There comes a point in time when it`s necessary to tip your hat to the other side,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “Happ pitched one of the best games we`ve seen all year.”