DENVER -- On most days, six innings of two-run ball at Coors Field puts a pitcher in position to win. But after scoring 41 runs in their last five games, the Angels came up against a Rockies rotation on a roll Tuesday, and Jon Gray's seven innings of shutout ball
DENVER -- On most days, six innings of two-run ball at Coors Field puts a pitcher in position to win. But after scoring 41 runs in their last five games, the Angels came up against a Rockies rotation on a roll Tuesday, and Jon Gray's seven innings of shutout ball proved too much to overcome as the Rockies recorded their franchise record ninth consecutive quality start, dealing the Halos a 4-2 loss in the first of two games in Colorado.
The Angels could only get past second base twice against Gray, loading the bases with two out in the first frame before Zack Cozart became Gray's first of eight strikeout victims to end the inning, then going five innings with just one base hit before a leadoff single from Andrelton Simmons in the seventh ended up with Simmons stranded on third as the inning ended with a fly to left.
"We set the table early," manager Mike Scioscia said of the Angels' bases-loaded threat in the first. "We had some good looks at him. He made some pitches to get out of innings and got on a nice roll. He had a lot working for him out there. We couldn't get the kind of looks we thought we would to kind of pressure him, and he pitched a good ballgame for them."
Shohei Ohtani took his first at-bat in a National League park when he pinch-hit with Simmons on second. Ohtani put on a remarkable display in batting practice, hitting the third deck multiple times as he got comfortable at Coors Field, but in the seventh he settled for a hard grounder to first, advancing the runner with the second out of the inning.
"He hit the ball well," Scioscia said. "It got in on him a little bit, but he hit the ball well, right at the first baseman. It was a good spot for Shohei. Especially on a 3-1 pitch, he made a good pitch to get in on him."
L.A. finally broke through after Gray was out of the game in the eighth. Reliever Adam Ottavino walked Michael Trout with two outs, then gave up a 438-foot no-doubter to left from Justin Upton, his seventh homer of the season to make it a two-run game.
Angels starter Andrew Heaney allowed five hits and three walks while striking out five over his six innings on the hill. He kept a dangerous lineup in check, and it was some small ball in the third that put the Rockies on the scoreboard. Tony Wolters led off with an infield single, was sacrificed to second by Gray, then scored on a DJ LeMahieu single to right that Jabari Blash kicked to Trout in center, avoiding extra bases and limiting the damage in the inning to a lone run on Gerardo Parra's single to left.
"The first run was not a great 0-2 pitch to LeMahieu there, especially out over the plate," Heaney said. "Little mistakes, but in a game like that, those are the ones that can beat you."
Heaney's only other damage came in the sixth, when Trevor Story opened the inning with a triple off the right-field wall just inside the foul line.
"Leadoff triples are always tough," Heaney said. "You got to do a lot of work to get out of that. Sometimes, you get a little lucky. I got a punchout of [Ian] Desmond there. I had Parra 1-2, and I thought I made a good pitch and the guy just fought it off. That's how it goes."
Heaney gave the Angels all they could ask for in a starting effort, his third solid start in his last three times toeing the rubber. He's moved back to the first-base side of the rubber, and said he feels more comfortable there, going 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA with five walks and 16 strikeouts during the span.
"My breaking ball was better today than it had been in a little while," Heaney said. "Sometimes that one extra run, two extra runs can be the difference in a game, so it's easy to look back now and say those are the deciding runs."
REVERSAL OF FORTUNE
Loading the bases and leaving the inning empty-handed proved to be a decisive momentum shifter for the Angels in the game's first frame. Upton started the two-out rally with a single to left, and Jose Pujols followed with a single to right, putting runners on first and third. Simmons walked to load the bases before Gray fanned Cozart to stifle the Halos' threat.
"It proved costly," Simmons said of the unsuccessful rally against Gray. "He made pitches. He didn't give away anything. He made some good sliders away, some backup sliders, and he was just hitting corners. He was good."
The loss ended an eight-game winning streak for the Angels in Colorado, dating back to 2001. They scored 10 or more runs five times during the streak, and in their 13 total games played at Coors Field, the Angels have had five games with 15 hits or more, making Tuesday's six-hit effort pale by comparison.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Angels turned a big double play in the sixth inning, and an unconventional one to boot. With runners on first and second, one out, and down 2-0, Rockies catcher Wolters lined to shallow center, but not so shallow that Trout couldn't snare the ball and fire to Ian Kinsler at second for the 8-4 inning-ending double play.
It set up the Angels for a late-inning rally, and Simmons delivered a leadoff single in the seventh, ultimately bringing Ohtani to the plate with the tying run, but the Angels couldn't take advantage of the moment, stranding Simmons and coming up with another goose egg.
HE SAID IT
"Swings and misses are great and they're cool and all, but early swings and bad contact is definitely helping me work through lineups a little bit longer." -- Heaney, on his effectiveness against a dangerous lineup in a hitter-friendly park
Jaime Barria (2-1, 3.46 ERA) will start the finale of the two-game set in Colorado on Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. PT. It will be Barria's fourth start of the season, but it's the first time he's stayed with the team for consecutive starts, as his previous three have all been spot-start callups. Barria will face Rockies southpaw Tyler Anderson (2-0, 3.78).
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.