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Rox' 3rd-inning rally backs Gray's superb start

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- To the Rockies' delight and the Padres' chagrin, right-hander Jon Gray on Wednesday afternoon turned his clock back to Sept. 17, 2016.

Gray racked up 11 strikeouts while throwing 101 pitches through six innings of the Rockies' 5-2 victory, which clinched the three-game series. It was reminiscent of his Rockies and Coors Field-record 16-strikeout game two seasons ago.

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DENVER -- To the Rockies' delight and the Padres' chagrin, right-hander Jon Gray on Wednesday afternoon turned his clock back to Sept. 17, 2016.

Gray racked up 11 strikeouts while throwing 101 pitches through six innings of the Rockies' 5-2 victory, which clinched the three-game series. It was reminiscent of his Rockies and Coors Field-record 16-strikeout game two seasons ago.

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It was the Rockies' first series win at Coors, where they generally have to dominate to contend because of a long tradition of road struggles. The home record improved to 5-7. They're 9-5 on the road, but will embark on their longest road trip to date -- against the Marlins, Cubs and Mets starting Friday.

Video: SD@COL: Black on Wolters, Dahl's triple, Gray's start

And Gray -- unfailingly honest about his pluses and minuses while losing his last three starts (19 runs, 18 earned, 26 hits in 15 2/3 innings) -- was clear-eyed in his assessment: hard to hit, but not economical.

"I could have gone seven, maybe eight, if I would have been more efficient and wouldn't have wasted as many," Gray said. "But then again, I really can't complain about that. If they're not putting the ball in play, it's a way better out. I'll take it."

On Wednesday, Gray fanned the side in the first inning. He used 20 pitches to do so, but he needed just 26 more pitches to clear the first time through the order, and struck out seven of the nine.

Video: SD@COL: Gray strikes out Myers, side in top of 1st

"I know that situation will happen again, and things will get tough again, but the more times I break through it, and the faster I do, I think it's going to help me get back on track the next time," Gray said.

After winning just one of the first four games of the just-completed homestand, the Rockies won the final two behind strong starting efforts from Kyle Freeland (seven innings, eight strikeouts in Tuesday's 8-0 victory) and Gray.

Most of Gray's support came during the third inning, when David Dahl delivered a two-run triple off Padres starter Tyson Ross (2-2) and scored on Trevor Story's sacrifice fly. Dahl tripled in each of the final two games in the series.

Video: SD@COL: Story skies a sacrifice fly to center field

A key Gray K came with one out in the fourth. Gray went from a 1-2 count to walk Carlos Asuaje, and yielded a Wil Myers single to put runners at first and second. Gray trailed Franchy Cordero 3-1 -- with manager Bud Black barking from the dugout at plate ump Hunter Wendelstedt on the third ball. But he ended up working a swinging strikeout, then forced Chase Headley to fly out to left to end the frame.

"That's some of the things that we've talked to Jon about -- he bent but he didn't break," Black said.

Gray established the fastball up in the zone. Through five, according to Statcast™, he had thrown 48 fastballs that included nine called strikes and 10 swings. His slider, which had eluded him for the most part this year, he threw 21 times with six swings and misses and one called strike. He changed his grip, loosening his middle finger, and said he'd keep working on it since some pitches slipped.

His curve, which he used 18 times and coaxed six swinging strikes and a called strike, was an important change of pace.

Video: SD@COL: Wolters throws out Pirela, call stands

"I feel like Jon's best games, he looks like he's having a lot of fun," said catcher Tony Wolters, who drove in two runs and snuffed two steal attempts at second base. "I told him he's an aggressive assassin, that he has fun.

"When he hears 'aggressive,' when he hears words that are not passive, I feel like it helps him."

Righty reliever Bryan Shaw (usually lefty Jake McGee would have pitched, but Black stayed away from him because of heavy recent use) walked two and threw a wild pitch while giving up a run in the seventh. Adam Ottavino, with a three-run lead, struck out two in the eighth and has fanned 26 in 13 2/3 innings.

Video: SD@COL: Gray on his outing, Dahl on batting fourth

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Since being called up from Triple-A Albuquerque on Sunday, Dahl has a hit in each game and is 5-for-16 (.313). He said he would like to trim his strikeouts (eight). But Friday's triple off the extended fencing in front of the Rockies bullpen displayed the form that he showed while hitting .315 with seven homers, 12 doubles and four triples as a rookie in 63 games in 2016.

Video: SD@COL: Dahl drills a two-run triple off the wall

Injuries kept him out of the Majors last season, but he's hitting as if he's not planning to go back. Black using him at cleanup Wednesday, for the second time, spoke volumes.

"It makes me confident," Dahl said. "It's a good feeling being cleanup like that. I feel pretty good, just gotta cut down the K's. But it's a very small sample. I hope I can get it going soon."

UP NEXT
Lefty Tyler Anderson (1-0, 4.32 ERA) begins a nine-game trip on Friday (5:10 p.m. MT) against the Marlins, who will start Jose Urena (0-3, 5.88). Anderson defeated the Cubs in his last start by shaking off a rough first inning, going with fastballs over off-speed pitches, and lasting six innings (two runs, six hits). Urena is 1-1 with a 4.30 ERA in four starts against the Rockies.

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, Jon Gray