DENVER -- Rockies starter Jon Gray tries to control his emotions on the mound, but sometimes they get away from him.
Gray was noticeably perturbed in Saturday's 6-2 loss to the D-backs after J.D. Martinez crushed a three-run homer in the first, and the frustration seemed to carry through the rest of his start. Though Gray held the D-backs scoreless through his next four innings, the home run was all the offense the opponents needed.
"It didn't have the action it was supposed to, and I was a little too quick in the first inning," Gray said of the home run pitch. "The tempo was fast and it was hard for me to slow down. It's very frustrating when the game starts off like that, it's like worst-case scenario, but I just did what I could to try to take us deep into the game."
Pitching with emotion isn't new for the Rockies' burgeoning ace, but laboring through it has always been a challenge.
Gray made adjustments last offseason to subdue his emotions by slowing down his rhythm with runners on base. These changes visibly manifested in most of Gray's starts this year, with Gray being much more deliberate in high-leverage situations.
"When I slow it down, I'm waiting until I feel really good about it before I throw the pitch," Gray said.
For Gray, a hasty tempo comes with the frustration, and his pace sped up in the first inning. The Martinez home run wasn't the catalyst, Gray said. When he pitched quickly in the past, things tended to get away from him.
"Before I knew it, I'd look behind me and I'd already given up five or six," Gray said of those old innings. "Slowing it down is just a way for me to take in the moment, know the situation, think about the pitch, see the out in your head, and when you feel good about it, execute it."
Manager Bud Black didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, saying he's used to seeing Gray pitch with passion and stay focused. Black said players tend to be more fiery in the last months of the season, especially on contending teams like the Rockies.
"With what's at stake and the time of year, every pitch is important," Black said. "I think that's great. You can show your emotion, but as long as you keep your focus and keep your poise, that's fine."
Gray said he had the Wild Card race on his mind early, but locked down his focus in the later innings. His stuff didn't waver, as he threw multiple 96- and 97-mph fastballs in the fifth.
"Everything started to come together at the end a little bit, even my feel just got better," Gray said. "Threw some good curveballs, we mixed well, threw some good heaters in, and it seemed like things were rolling again.
"But it was just too late."