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Gray, Rockies fall to D-backs on Opening Day

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

PHOENIX -- The best that can be said for Rockies right-hander Jon Gray is that he didn't spin out of control after a rough beginning, like the last time he pitched at Chase Field. But the three runs he allowed in the first inning proved too much, as the Rockies lost to the D-backs, 8-2, in Thursday night's opener.

So it was an Opening Day letdown. But the difference from last year's National League Wild Card Game loss to the D-backs, when Gray gave up four runs on seven hits in 1 1/3 innings as the season thudded to an end, to now, with 161 games to go, was reflected in the right-hander's postgame tone.

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PHOENIX -- The best that can be said for Rockies right-hander Jon Gray is that he didn't spin out of control after a rough beginning, like the last time he pitched at Chase Field. But the three runs he allowed in the first inning proved too much, as the Rockies lost to the D-backs, 8-2, in Thursday night's opener.

So it was an Opening Day letdown. But the difference from last year's National League Wild Card Game loss to the D-backs, when Gray gave up four runs on seven hits in 1 1/3 innings as the season thudded to an end, to now, with 161 games to go, was reflected in the right-hander's postgame tone.

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"I didn't get ahead -- a lot of pitches weren't competitive at all -- and it's tough to win that way, because you put yourself in a bad spot, really," Gray said. "But nothing's changed, really. But nothing's changed. I'm excited about the season. I know we're going to be a good team.

"I know things are going to come together. You can't base it on one game."

Jake Lamb's bases-loaded, two-run double turned what had been a one-run lead -- thanks to DJ LeMahieu's homer off Patrick Corbin in the top of the first -- into a deficit and ran Gray's pitch count to 30. Lamb's drive, which came on a first-pitch hanging curveball, might have been catchable, but center fielder Charlie Blackmon seemed to be affected by the balcony over the center-field wall.

Video: COL@ARI: Lamb crushes a two-run double off the wall

Gray, who felt better pitching out of the stretch and stayed with that even with the bases empty, retired nine straight after Lamb's double to stay competitive.

"In the middle -- second, third and fourth -- he hung in there, made some pitches, but the first inning was a little bit of a backbreaker for us," Rockies manager Bud Black said.

Gray's night ended at 86 pitches after he allowed a hit and two walks to begin the fifth. He allowed three runs on six hits in four innings.

Left-hander Chris Rusin made sure no more runs were charged to Gray. Rusin fanned Lamb, came from down 3-0 to force a Ketel Marte foulout to right and worked Alex Avila into a grounder.

Video: COL@ARI: Rusin retires Avila to strand the bases full

However, the D-backs scored three in the sixth on several weak-contact events.

"[Rusin's] pitching line does not indicate how he threw the ball," Black said. "That's the part of baseball that you've got to look through -- you've got to look through the statistics."

Video: COL@ARI: Arenado belts a solo home run to left-center

Nolan Arenado provided the Rockies' only other run on a leadoff homer in the top of the fifth, right after Rusin's escape. However, Corbin escaped the fifth by forcing LeMahieu into a double-play grounder, and Archie Bradley induced another LeMahieu double-play grounder in the seventh.

The Rockies had nine hits (three by catcher Chris Iannetta), but they struck out 12 times -- eight against Corbin, who gave up both solo shots among seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Oh so close: Rusin walked Nick Ahmed to open the sixth, but from there, the Rockies were done in by soft contact. Jarrod Dyson beat out a bunt, with a replay review overturning the original call, and Ahmed scored on a David Peralta squibber that spun out of third baseman Arenado's barehand, preventing him from throwing to the plate.

"I threw the pitch I wanted to throw, got weak contact, and then you can't control anything after that," Rusin said. "As long as I threw it where I wanted to throw it, you live with the results and you move on."

Lamb then fought off an inside fastball on an 0-1 Scott Oberg pitch and blooped a single into left to score a pair. The D-backs scored three runs in the inning, but didn't hit any ball particularly hard, benefiting from a pair of walks, a bunt single and the bloop hit.

Video: COL@ARI: Lamb sprays a two-run single to left

That's why he's there: One of the reasons the D-backs didn't put Archie Bradley in the closer's role was because they liked the flexibility of using him to get out of a jam in the seventh inning, and then have him pitch the eighth as well. That's just what happened, as the right-hander entered with one out in the seventh and runners on first and second, then got LeMahieu to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Video: COL@ARI: Bradley escapes danger in 7th with DP

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
LeMahieu, who is known for hitting for average rather than power, has four of his 35 career homers off Corbin, his most against any pitcher.

Video: COL@ARI: LeMahieu opens the scoring with a solo homer

Arenado's three career Opening Day home runs tie Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Vinny Castilla for the franchise record.

WHAT'S NEXT
Rockies: Lefty Tyler Anderson (6-6, 4.81 ERA in 2017) starts against the D-backs on Friday at 7:40 p.m. MT. Keep an eye on Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, whose .733 slugging percentage in 15 at-bats against D-backs starter Robbie Ray is his second highest against a lefty he has at least 10 at-bats against.

D-backs: Ray makes his 2018 debut Friday night as the D-backs take on the Rockies at Chase Field at 6:40 p.m. MST. Ray had a breakout year in 2017, when he established career bests in wins (15), ERA (2.89) and strikeouts (218).

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

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