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Gray can't right ship in loss to Giants

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Some poor recent numbers -- not to mention a season in which struggles have outweighed successes -- have become an elephant on the back of Rockies right-handed starter Jon Gray.

But after he gave up four runs and threw 91 pitches in just 3 1/3 innings of a 7-4 loss to the Giants on Wednesday night, manager Bud Black was thinking of the proverbial multi-course meal.

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DENVER -- Some poor recent numbers -- not to mention a season in which struggles have outweighed successes -- have become an elephant on the back of Rockies right-handed starter Jon Gray.

But after he gave up four runs and threw 91 pitches in just 3 1/3 innings of a 7-4 loss to the Giants on Wednesday night, manager Bud Black was thinking of the proverbial multi-course meal.

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The whole of his last four starts is ugly: 1-2 with a 9.33 ERA and 31 hits allowed in 18 1/3 innings. But Black vowed to look at Gray's outing and his overall work part by part -- some good to build upon, some needing of correction. He did that Wednesday, even though Gray couldn't maintain a 3-0 lead -- courtesy of Nolan Arenado's first-inning three-run homer -- and left with the score tied after walking in two runs in the fourth.

Video: SF@COL: Arenado hammers a 3-run homer to left-center

So the postgame approach was all about perspective. The Rockies took two of three from the Giants and are 4-2 on a nine-game homestand with the Dodgers coming in Friday to start a three-game set, and the Rockies lead the National League West by 1 1/2 games over the second-place D-backs. And they still have high expectations for Gray, the Opening Day starter the last two years.

"Jon threw a lot of pitches, 90-plus pitches in three-plus innings is not recommended," Black said. "But he fought -- wasn't on the top of his game, for sure. But he fought. Couldn't establish anything with his fastball and his slider, but yet he hung in there -- punched out five and walked three.

"I'm sure Jon will self-admit it wasn't a game that a starting pitcher wants."

Video: SF@COL: Gray fans Longoria, strands runner on second

In two of his last three starts, both against the Giants, Gray has turned in a season low in innings pitched. He lasted 3 2/3 innings of a 9-4 loss at AT&T Park on May 19; in the two games, he has needed 169 pitches to manage seven innings.

Gray gave up two runs in the second, on a Pablo Sandoval single and a wild pitch. He finally broke in the fourth.

Holding a 4-2 lead -- thanks to an RBI single from Charlie Blackmon, who has hit safely in eight straight games -- with one out, Gray yielded a Mac Williamson double and walked Sandoval. Then Gray fumbled Giants pitcher Derek Holland's sacrifice-bunt attempt, looked to third, fired to first -- and wound up out-less.

Video: SF@COL: Blackmon plates Wolters on a single to center

"That was a big moment right there," said Black, who went to the mound before Holland came up and emphasized getting the safe out.

Then Gray sunk deeper.

His 2-2 pitch to Gorkys Hernandez looked to be a strike on television imaging but only plate umpire Marvin Hudson's ball call counted. Gray then proceeded to walk not only Hernandez but Buster Posey, who ignored a low fastball with the count full. The game was tied, and Gray was gone.

Video: SF@COL: Posey plates Sandoval with a walk in the 4th

The whole -- a 5.68 ERA in 12 starts -- isn't pretty. Gray has bought into looking at it in parts. It's digging to the roots of why he isn't effective overall instead of obsessing on less-than-appealing numbers. He managed just 13 strikes on 43 four-seam fastballs, which rendered his slider and everything else ineffective.

"Bad mindset," Gray said. "I feel like my stuff was good -- well enough to win. I wasn't going after guys. I picked around the corners and got behind too much. You've got to go at guys.

"This is the weird thing: The thing I wanted to work on was the spin on my slider, because I had trouble putting people away. My slider's getting really good. It was real good tonight. But I didn't have anything else working. A lot of it has to do with my mindset on the fastball."

Harrison Musgrave (0-1) replaced Gray and escaped the fourth by extracting an Andrew McCutchen double-play ball -- shortstop Trevor Story couldn't corral the line drive but was able to salvage the inning-ending play. However, Evan Longoria's RBI triple and Crawford's run-scoring single made it 6-4.

Video: SF@COL: Musgrave escapes a bases-loaded jam with DP

Holland (3-6) walked Arenado and Story with two down in the fifth before Carlos Gonzalez launched a sinking liner to center -- but Hernandez made a sliding grab that was ruled a four-star catch by Statcast™ (he covered 50 feet in 3.5 seconds to snatch it despite a 48 percent catch probability).

Video: SF@COL: Hernandez charges in for a diving catch

With two out and two on in the eighth against Giants reliever Sam Dyson, David Dahl had a painful grounder to first. Dahl, already nursing a bruised left shin and calf as the result of a baserunning collision Monday night, fouled the first pitch off his right foot. And Arenado popped out with two on in the ninth against Hunter Strickland, who had let Gerardo Parra reach on a wild-pitch third strike and yielded a Ryan McMahon double.

"We've won two series at home and we haven't been playing good at home, so that's a good sign," Arenado said. "We're going into the off-day, hopefully refreshed for the Dodger series and win another one. It'd be nice to win three series at home, take care of home-field advantage."

SOUND SMART
Second baseman Daniel Castro went 2-for-3 to end an 0-for-11 skid. It was Castro's first multi-hit game since May 22, 2016, for the Braves against the Phillies

UP NEXT
Lefty Tyler Anderson (3-1, 4.72 ERA), who starts Friday vs. the Dodgers, has had solid numbers against them at home -- 2-2, 3.75 ERA in four starts. Anderson will face lefty Alex Wood (1-4, 3.75), who is 1-2 with an 8.18 ERA in five starts at Coors Field; however, his last one was a success -- six scoreless with 10 strikeouts in a 4-0 win last May 13.

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, Nolan Arenado, Jon Gray