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Rox lead off with liftoff as Gray cools Cubs

Blackmon, Dahl, Arenado homer off Hendricks on windy night
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

CHICAGO -- After spending much of April searching for missing pieces that separated him from dominance, Rockies right-hander Jon Gray pieced it together for seven innings Tuesday night in a 3-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Gray (3-4) struck out six and held the Cubs to three hits and one run -- an Anthony Rizzo homer on the first pitch -- while helping end a Rockies losing streak at three games and a Cubs win streak at five.

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CHICAGO -- After spending much of April searching for missing pieces that separated him from dominance, Rockies right-hander Jon Gray pieced it together for seven innings Tuesday night in a 3-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Gray (3-4) struck out six and held the Cubs to three hits and one run -- an Anthony Rizzo homer on the first pitch -- while helping end a Rockies losing streak at three games and a Cubs win streak at five.

View Full Game Coverage

Rizzo's HR had 1 percent hit probability

Gray pitched the whole time with a lead, anyhow, because Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl opened the game with home runs off Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (2-2), and Nolan Arenado went deep in the fourth. Gametime wind was 16 mph, out to center.

Video: COL@CHC: Blackmon and Dahl go back-to-back in 1st

"I had to be aware of that, it was really blowing out -- shoot, the first pitch of the game got hit out," Gray said. "I had to be unpredictable, mix and not let them sit on anything in one speed in one area."

Hendricks held the Rockies to one hit other than the homers -- Gray's third-inning single. But Gray was simply better.

"I was a little bit worried that it was going to be the kind of things where guys were going to get home runs given to them when they hit, basically, lazy fly balls," said Blackmon, who was tied for the MLB lead with 10 homers. "Fortunately, Jon Gray went out there and didn't even let them hit any fly balls."

Video: COL@CHC: Arenado lifts a solo home run to left

After a three-start slump, Gray responded in his last start with 11 strikeouts in a home victory over the Padres. The only "yeah, but" was efficiency -- 101 pitches in six innings.

This time, Gray artfully saved the strikeouts until the fifth, choosing quick outs early, and left the mound after 96 pitches, 67 strikes. And he's asking for more of himself.

"I need to be a little sharper -- some pitches got away that shouldn't have, but overall we got back to it and executed the next one," Gray said.

Video: COL@CHC: Rizzo leads off with an opposite-field smash

Eight of his final "out" pitches were offspeed, as Gray wanted either swings and misses or weak contact. It was by necessity. After the homer show early, Gray adjusted and kept the ball down for nine groundouts.

Part of the early success was taking advantage of an aggressive Cubs lineup whose plan is to put balls in play.

"My [advance] work did not indicate that high of a ground-ball rate from him," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I don't know if throwing into the wind had something to do with that or he was doing something differently, but there were more ground balls than anticipated today."

Video: COL@CHC: Bud Black on Gray's outing, win over Cubs

Gray was challenged twice.

• In the fourth, he withstood a Kris Bryant leadoff single and his only walk, to Ben Zobrist, with three outs without the ball leaving the infield.

Kyle Schwarber tripled with one out in the seventh. But Gray finished the inning with a strikeout of Victor Caratini and a first-pitch foulout from Jason Heyward. It was the third trip through the lineup for Gray, who entered having allowed a 1.271 OPS the third time through the order. But Schwarber's triple was the only hit, and Gray fanned three of the seven batters he saw.

Video: COL@CHC: Schwarber rips a triple to right field

"Big [fourth] inning for us, big inning for Jon," said Rockies manager Bud Black, who started Gray on Opening Day the past two years and has been through the growing pains. "He's done that the last couple times. He did with the Schwarber later in the game with the triple.

"These are steps Jon is taking to become the guy that we talk about."

Rockies relievers Adam Ottavino and Wade Davis, with his 11th save in 12 chances, finished Gray's work.

Video: COL@CHC: Davis strikes out Schwarber to earn save

Heyward's foul on Gray's final pitch landed softly and fittingly in the mitt of catcher Tony Wolters. In four starts pitching to Wolters, Gray has a 2.01 ERA. Four of the six earned runs he has given up while throwing to Wolters came in one inning of a loss at Washington on April 14.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella tried to spark the Cubs by hustling on his bouncer toward first base with one out in the eighth, but the Rockies' Ian Desmond beat him with a deft glove-hand flip to Ottavino, who covered the bag and needed most of his long-armed 6-foot-5 frame to reach the ball.

Video: COL@CHC: Ottavino makes acrobatic play covering first

SOUND SMART
The Blackmon and Dahl homers were notable in many ways, but historic in one. It was the first time an opponent opened a game against the Cubs with consecutive home runs since the Boston Bees (now known as the Atlanta Braves) had Roy Johnson and Rabbit Worstler do it on Aug. 3, 1937, off Tex Carleton. The Cubs came back to win that one, 12-6.

HE SAID IT
"I actually came to a game here when I was, like, 14, and I remember a bunch of people hit bombs here. I was saying, 'Maybe one day I can do this.' It was a really good feeling, being able to hit one." -- Dahl, who is making his first trip to Wrigley as a big leaguer

Video: COL@CHC: Dahl lines a solo home run to left field

UP NEXT
Rockies lefty Tyler Anderson (1-0, 4.10 ERA) left his start at Miami after 1 1/3 innings on Friday with what the club called lightheadedness, but he has been cleared to start Wednesday's series finale (12:20 p.m. MT) at Wrigley Field. Righty Yu Darvish (0-2, 5.26) will start for the Cubs.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl, Wade Davis, Jon Gray, Adam Ottavino