BALTIMORE -- Presumably, Rubby De La Rosa already knew that you can't win without any offensive support.
But De La Rosa had another valuable lesson in the Red Sox' 6-0 shutout loss to the Baltimore Orioles: when you have a fastball as good as he has, don't be afraid to throw it early and often.
"I thought tonight was an important learning experience for him,'' said John Farrell of his starter, "and the way in which he needs to use his fastball. Quickly the word spreads around this league on what an individual pitcher will go to. I thought once he started to use his fastball from the third inning on, he forced some swings and made his changeup and his breaking pitches that much more effective.''
By the time De La Rosa came around, however, the Sox were already down 3-0 thanks to a first inning that saw an RBI double from Adam Jones and a two-run homer by Chris Davis, the latter of which came on a changeup.
And given the ineptitude of the Red Sox' offense, which scored exactly one run in 27 innings here -- and yet, miraculously managed to win a game anyway -- the 3-0 lead felt virtually insurmountable.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski had tried to get De La Rosa to go his fastball more early in the game, only to have righthander frequently shake him off.
"But I think once he got deeper in the game,'' said Farrell, ''(he figured out) how to use his stuff more effectively. I think there's a tendency for information that travels around the league that (hitters) are going to get a changeup or a breaking ball in a given at-bat. And I think he realized that with the velocity he has, (the smart thing is) to speed some hitters up and make them swing the bat before he goes to (the other stuff).
"Once did that, he settled into a pretty good rhythm and put up zeroes.''
Indeed, after the first, De La Rosa allowed just one more run over his final 4 2/3 innings.
"I've got to use more of my fastball,'' said a chagrined De La Rosa. "They can't hit me with the fastball. I felt better in the second inning. My command was better and my fastball location was better.''
De La Rosa can throw his fastball in the mid-90s -- and above at times. But if he doesn't establish it early in the game and becomes too predictable with his secondary pitchers, hitters sit and wait for other options.
Such was the case last night.
As it was, De La Rosa struck out seven and walked just two. And after the first inning, two of the last hits he allowed never left the infield.
By then, however, given the O's quick starts and the Red Sox' inability to do anything against Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen, it was too late.