De La Rosa, the organization's top pitching prospect, lived up to the hype with a dominant eighth inning of relief in his major league debut. The Dodgers led the Astros by a run at the time, and all signs pointed to him returning for the ninth inning to get a two-inning save.
But manager Don Mattingly didn't double switch, and when the pitcher's spot came up in the top of the ninth with two runners on base and two outs, Mattingly lifted De La Rosa for a pinch hitter.
Instead of De La Rosa getting the save in his major league debut, Javy Guerra closed out the game in his sixth career appearance. Guerra needed just eight pitches, all strikes, to earn the save in the Dodgers' 5-4 victory over the Astros.
Not a bad day for the much-maligned Dodgers farm system. Jerry Sands, the organization's hitter of the year in 2010, hit a grand slam in the third inning.
Before the game, Mattingly said, "If a starter got in trouble, (De La Rosa) could be right there. But he could be used anywhere."
Anywhere became the eighth -- and nearly the ninth.
How did the Dodgers get to this point?
"We couldn't wait any longer," general manager Ned Colletti. "He's still young, in a lot of ways. But his stuff is pretty strong. His poise far exceeds his experience."
De La Rosa, 22, got the call earlier in the day from Class AA Chattanooga. He had posted a 2.93 ERA in eight minor league games this season (all starts), striking out 52 in 40 innings, and allowing a .199 opponents' average.
The rundown of his impressive inning through the heart of the Astros lineup:
--Whiffed Hunter Pence with a 97 mph fastball on a 3-2 pitch.
--Broke the bat of Carlos Lee for a routine grounder to short.
--Whiffed Brett Wallace on a nasty biting slider that exploded out of the zone.
If Mattingly were to make double switch, he wouldn't have removed cleanup hitter Matt Kemp, who made the final out in the eighth. It's doubtful he would have removed No. 3 hitter James Loney, who is so good defensively at first base.
Mattingly confirmed that if De La Rosa's spot hadn't come up in the order, he'd have pitched the ninth.
"He has a power arm," Mattingly said before the game. "We wanted to put another quality arm out there. It's his power stuff. We saw it all spring. It's one of those arms you don't see very often. He has pretty good command with it. The changeup is basically dirty, and his slider is getting better and better."
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