Gray exits early, then Bard struggles late

August 29th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- Not much has gone the Rockies’ way on the road this season. It seems that every time they start to gain momentum in their visiting uniforms, their opposition finds a way to halt it.

Colorado failed to hold an early lead, and reliever ’s recent woes were put under the spotlight as a three-run eighth inning led to the Rockies falling to the Dodgers, 5-2, on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Bard didn’t record a single out in the eighth as the first three batters he faced got on base via a single and two walks.

"Daniel was trying to keep the ball down, trying to produce a ground ball and missed,” manager Bud Black said. “In that part of the game against this lineup, they'll force you to throw strikes. They really will, they'll grind you out. But Daniel tonight, [his] delivery looked good, everything looked good, just couldn't get the ball in the strike zone.”

Given his struggles in the ninth inning recently, the Rockies have switched Bard’s role temporarily. He’ll be working in situations that are outside of the ninth to give him an opportunity to work through his command.

But of his 19 pitches in the eighth against the Dodgers, only seven were strikes while two were whiffs.

"If you don't command [the movement], it leads you out of the strike zone. That's something that we've talked to Daniel about; it's mechanics, that's delivery, that's consistency of release point,” Black said. “From my vantage point, he threw some good pitches that looked close, but didn't get the call. But then again, it's baseball; if you don't get it, then you gotta move it a little closer into the strike zone. He's not gonna complain, no excuses.”

The Rockies also had to deal with the loss of starting pitcher , who exited with what the club announced after the game was right forearm tightness. Gray grimaced in pain after he made one pitch to Mookie Betts, his 48th on the night, in the bottom of the frame with no outs and runners on the corners. The Rockies’ training staff checked on Gray before Black opted to remove him from the game.

“We're gonna wait a couple days and assess it. I talked with [head athletic trainer Keith Dugger] and Keith said, 'Let's wait a couple days. Let's see how it sets up tomorrow,'" Black said. "It's in the top part of the forearm, which generally in baseball parlance is OK, so we'll see."

Gray tossed 32 pitches in the first inning as a single and two walks led to a bases-loaded situation, but he forced Cody Bellinger to fly out to end the frame. Gray settled back on the mound in the second, needing only nine pitches to retire the side in order. Black said Gray’s forearm tightness started during the game, most noticeably after the first.

“I talked to Jon briefly in between innings,” Black said. “He threw a very powerful side session a couple days ago [and] didn't feel anything, but yet he also said he sort of felt a little soreness in the top of the forearm.

“[Pitching coach Steve Foster] said he warmed up great. For me, it might have a little something to do with the long first inning, with that 32-pitch inning. That to me might be an indicator of what happened.”

The 29-year-old spent time on the 10-day injured list with a right flexor strain in June, which sidelined him for nearly three weeks. Since returning from the IL, Gray has made 12 starts, including Saturday’s, while allowing 28 earned runs in 63 1/3 innings.

Right-hander came out of the bullpen and took over in the third, allowing one of his inherited runners to score. Right-hander then impressed out of the bullpen, striking out four batters in two scoreless innings.

Almonte has turned things around since the All-Star break, posting a 2.53 ERA in eight second-half appearances.

"I feel like I've had some positive strides this second half compared with the first half," Almonte said. "Little by little, I'm getting back to where I was at last year."