Gomber fires eight scoreless in win

June 15th, 2021

DENVER -- was allowed to bypass second grade, so he always has been a quick study. When the grown-up, left-handed pitching Gomber joined the Rockies this winter, he pored over scouting reports and video on the National League West foes that he would often face.

But in a lot of ways, he did the learning the way he did when he was in second grade. How do second graders study? They learn best at play.

“It’s instincts,” Gomber said recently. “If I get into a situation I’ve never been in, whether it goes good or bad, next time out I’m like, ‘I’ve been in this spot. I’ve faced this guy before.' Maybe I want to do something different. Or maybe I’ll do the same thing.”

Gomber treated a potent Padres lineup like child’s play Monday night, as he has all season, by throwing eight scoreless, three-hit innings with four strikeouts in a 3-2 victory at Coors Field. In three starts this season against the Padres, Gomber has held them to one earned run and has struck out 17 in 19 1/3 innings.

“The biggest thing I told [catcher Elias] Díaz before the game was we’d had success against them two times, so we had a blueprint, but just be aware that they’ve seen me and might come out and make adjustments,” said Gomber, who did not walk a batter for a third straight start.

Gomber was threatened only in the sixth, when Victor Caratini led off with a double. Gomber quickly yielded Ryan Weathers’ ill-placed bunt and threw to first after looking Caratini back to second, then forced grounders by Tommy Pham and Trent Grisham. The final out, which required nine pitches as Grisham ran the count full, was important -- left on left, with power-hitting righty Manny Machado on deck.

“Anytime you face a team a number of times, it really becomes making pitches, changing speeds, moving the ball in and out, being unpredictable,” manager Bud Black said. “Early on, the pitcher has the advantage when he faces a team the first couple of times, then it becomes a cat-and-mouse game.”

Gomber, whose high fastball, curve and slider lead to a fly-ball motif, has incorporated a changeup lately. Judicious use of that pitch, coupled with his ability to jam hitters on each side, led to 14 groundouts Monday.

He has a 0.95 ERA in five starts at home and a solid 3.54 overall, and has given up one earned run in 19 innings over his last three starts.

Gomber, 27, arrived with just 104 Major League innings and a lot to learn. Since he had so little of his work against NL West foes, that was a good place to give special attention.

The marks in general have been good. Gomber walked seven in three innings the first time he faced the Dodgers, but held them to three runs in six innings and had a lead next time out. His outings against the Giants have been one good (one hit, two runs) and one bad (nine runs in 1 2/3 innings). He pitched adequately in his lone start against the D-backs -- six innings, five hits, two earned runs in a lopsided win.

And he has been a standout against the Padres.

“He mixed his pitches really well,” said the Padres’ Wil Myers, who had one of the hits. “He spotted his fastball when he needed to, and threw his offspeed pitches well off of it. I thought he threw the ball really well tonight. … He kept us off-balance.”

While Gomber crammed for the NL West, he has become more like a second-grader lately than a thinking man’s pitcher.

Early in the season, some starts were as stellar as Monday but others were bad. After giving up five runs on six hits in a loss to his old club at St. Louis, Gomber decided to stop thinking and strategizing so much.

“Up until St. Louis, I really hadn’t been me -- pitch how I pitch, attack how I attack,” Gomber said. “That’s partially the catchers not knowing me and me not doing a good enough job explaining what I do. It came to a head in St. Louis. I had really good stuff and should have done better than what I did.

“I felt like I was pitching to a scouting report and not to my strengths.”