While Colorado Rockies rookie pitcher Antonio Senzatela has been stellar all year, he still managed to surprise the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday afternoon by throwing a near-lights out, six inning performance in the Rockies’ 10-4 win at Coors Field.

“I felt really good. I had a good game with the last champions. It was really good for me,” Senzatela said of his latest successful outing. “The slider was working really good for me tonight, and the team made really good plays.”

In the seventh game of his Major League career, the 22-year-old ace threw 57 strikes in 99 pitches, posting four strikeouts, three walks, two earned runs and just five hits.

And, in what is perhaps the bigger story here, he managed to outperform a pitching mastermind in Jake Arrieta, who gave up five earned runs out of nine in almost four innings.

“That’s special, because he’s a good guy, big guy,” Senzatela said. “He won the Cy Young two years ago.”

Where Senzatela faltered a bit on the mound, his teammates’ clutch defense came in to save him and help work him out of a few precarious innings.

“I think there’s some resiliency in there, too,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “You hear me talk a lot about ball-strike ratio, and for him it wasn’t great today. There was a few walks in there, there were some deeper counts, behind the counts. But there’s some resiliency where he hung in there, he got through where he wasn’t pitching how we’ve seen him overall, and that’s going to happen.”

In his first 44 innings as a Rockie, Senzatela boasts a 2.86 ERA with just 14 earned runs to his name, 24 strikeouts and a 5-1 record early on. He, undoubtedly, has been a big game changer for the Rockies this year, whether or not he saw it coming at the start of the year.

“A little bit [surprised]. Obviously I’m confident in myself, so I felt like I was going to do well,” Senzatela said. “I’m pretty happy for that.” 

All season long, Senzatela has led a young core of rookie pitchers, three of which are 23-years-old and under, to a strong start this season and has been fire ever since–something he chalks up to two main strengths.

“I just control the motion, command my fastball,” Senzatela said.

And although he’s one of the youngest guys on the 40-man roster, the Valencia, Venezuela native has had plenty of practice on the mound to help him develop into the player that he is today.

“The competition in [Venezuela] was very good for me, a very good experience,” Senzatela said. “I played two months there and then put it back to here.”

While the style of play in the South American country has its distinctions from the game in the States, Senzatela said that his time there and in the Rockies’ minor league system helped him prepare for the bigger stage of the MLB.

“The levels helped you prepare for the next, and then every year getting better and fixing things, and doing better,” he said.

Whatever the case, the road that Senzatela has taken to get to this point in his career is certainly paying off.

“For a rookie to do that, it goes back to who this guy is,” Black said.