Rockies' bats can't pick up Gray in loss to Cubs
DENVER -- Cold rain pounded Nolan Arenado's black Rockies cap, and his balaclava -- ski mask in layman's terms -- tried to keep the awfulness off his face as he hoped in vain for one good thing to happen on a rough Friday night at Coors Field.
Instead, Kristopher Bryant's grounder refused to roll foul and plopped against the third-base bag. The hit drove in the final run of a cold, wet and helpless 16-5 loss to the Cubs that saw the temperature dipping into the upper 30s by the end.
At least the night started well for Arenado, who returned from a five-game suspension for charging the mound during an April 11 game and hit the first pitch he saw for a two-run homer. But in the end he was a cold, wet, high and dry Rockies player.
"Today was a positive, individually, but unfortunately we didn't win," said Arenado, who had three hits.
It wasn't just that little went right for the Rockies. It's that the loss highlighted the problems that haunt the Rockies, even though they finished the night above .500 at 11-10.
After returning to the postseason last year for the first time since 2009, part of the Rockies' optimism was rooted in Jon Gray, their No. 1 starter, and an offense expected to produce -- especially at Coors.
But on Friday:
• Gray (1-4) didn't have his slider, lost his fastball location as the evening progressed and was charged with seven runs (five earned) in five-plus innings.
• An offense that entered the night last in the National League in batting and on-base percentage improved both of those figures by five points -- .219 batting, .290 OBP. But most of that came when the game was well out of hand.
• The loss left the Rockies at 2-5 at Coors. The road start has been good, but for a team that has had two winning road records in its history -- 2009 and last season, both at 41-40 -- contention is not sustainable when struggling at home.
Starting pitching, combined with a bullpen that has been hard to beat with a lead, has kept the Rockies afloat. However, that pitching hasn't come from a frustrated Gray.
"I'm really just trying to wait for this nightmare to end," Gray said. "I feel like I'm making strides each time but the results are just not there yet. But it's not going to keep me from going back out next time and giving everything I have."
Unlike many of his other starts, which featured just enough mistakes to prevent him from being dominant, Gray had little of his stuff. He finished with one strikeout. In losses in his last two starts, Gray fanned 12 in 10 2/3 innings.
"If there's one thing, tonight he didn't throw very many good sliders, and usually when Jon has his slider and his fastball command he'll get some strikeouts," Rockies manager Bud Black said.
Gray coughed up a Javier Baez two-run homer on the game's third pitch. Although the leadoff hitter reached in each of his first four innings, he was in a 3-3 tie going into the fifth. Baez's one-out double and some less-than-stellar defense (something that hasn't been a problem) led to a two-run inning, and Gray lasted two batters in the sixth.
Righty reliever Bryan Shaw struggled after replacing Gray, giving up five runs on four hits, including Kyle Schwarber's three-run homer, while managing just two outs.
After Arenado's homer gave the Rockies a 3-2 lead, Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (1-1) settled in and finished with six strikeouts in five innings. Beyond Arenado, the Rockies' best offensive performer -- at least during the competitive portion -- was Gray, who doubled in the second and singled in the fifth.
Gray has a .222 season batting average -- higher than that of Friday starters Gerardo Parra (.215 as his slump dragged to 2-for-19), Trevor Story (.216), Ian Desmond (.153 and on a 2-for-29 skid) and Ryan McMahon (.158, although he could celebrate the first two-hit game of his career). Gray is 13 points behind Carlos Gonzalez (.235), who sat out nursing a right hamstring injury.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Decision of disappointment: With the score tied at 3 in the fifth, Gray needed his defense. Problem was Story wanted more.
With one out and Baez at second, Story fielded Bryant's bouncer to shortstop and fired to Arenado at third, who could not tag Baez in time. (Baez was originally ruled out, but the call was overturned after the Cubs challenged).
Had Story gone to first for the simple out, all Gray needed to do was retire Anthony Rizzo for a scoreless inning. Instead, Rizzo's grounder plated a run, then Arenado's first error of the season -- a difficult throw that McMahon couldn't handle -- let another run score.
Gray's slider has not been consistent this season. Last season, out of 80 balls in play against Gray's slider, 11 were hard hit (95 mph or greater exit velocity), according to Statcast™. This season, of the 30 balls in play against the slider, 10 have been hard hit. One of those came Friday -- the Baez homer.
HE SAID IT
"Collectively, I'm getting tired of saying it, we need five or six guys on a roll, and we only have a couple." -- Black, on the Rockies' offense
Rockies lefty Tyler Anderson gave up three runs (one earned) in his last start Sunday at Washington, walking six over 4 2/3 innings. Anderson (0-0, 4.74 ERA) will start on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. MT against Cubs righty Yu Darvish (0-1, 6.00 ERA), who has never pitched at Coors Field.