LOS ANGELES -- While not as severe as the team standing across from them Thursday night, the Rockies were mired in a slump entering a four-game set against the Dodgers, losing six of their last nine.With Clayton Kershaw on the mound, and a string of 14 road contests over their
LOS ANGELES -- While not as severe as the team standing across from them Thursday night, the Rockies were mired in a slump entering a four-game set against the Dodgers, losing six of their last nine.
With Clayton Kershaw on the mound, and a string of 14 road contests over their next 17 games staring back at them, the Rockies were certainly in need of a big-time outing from Jon Gray.
Gray set the tone for what will undoubtedly be a grueling stretch in the team's pursuit of a National League Wild Card spot, holding the Dodgers to a run on four hits over six innings while the offense knocked around Kershaw in a near-historic fashion in a 9-1 win.
"[Gray] got it done, bottom line," said Rockies manager Bud Black, as the team pushed its lead for the second NL Wild Card to three games over the Brewers and Cardinals.
" … When you go up against Kershaw and you win the game -- look at his winning percentage, look at his won-loss record, especially here in this park."
Kershaw hadn't lost a decision over his last 16 starts leading into Thursday and had a 1.70 ERA over that stretch. Gray held a 5.52 ERA over his three previous Dodger Stadium starts. He also had just two runs of support over those starts.
Runs wouldn't be an issue Thursday.
The Rockies became just the third team to notch four first-inning hits against Kershaw, which included a three-run homer from Nolan Arenado and four total runs against him in Kershaw's 3 2/3 innings of work. Gray took care of the rest, tallying his second consecutive road start of six or more innings and one or fewer runs.
" We faced the best pitcher in the game and we won," said Carlos Gonzalez, who belted one of the Rockies' two homers. "And when you're playing on his field where he's pretty much untouchable, we're talking about a guy who already has a no-hitter against this team. … The way we took care of business was great."
Gray's only hiccup of the night came in the fourth after a pair of doubles from Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig. He needed 107 pitches through six innings -- one off his season-high -- but Black was impressed with how he handled his delivery through the outing.
The 25-year-old right-hander said he simplified things in one of his finest starts of the year.
"I know [the Dodgers are] a good team, their record tells it all," Gray said. " I just had to be not as fine tonight and try to be more aggressive -- don't try to hit sides or corners too much, just be aggressive and put the fastball inside."
That strategy worked to near-perfection as a pair of singles from Chris Taylor marked the only other damage off him. The Dodgers brought the tying run to the plate in the form of John Forsythe with two outs in the fourth, but Gray got him to line out to end the threat.
"I'll chalk that up to growth and maturity, and [being] a year older," Black said of Gray. "… Hopefully, these things are for the long term."
Ryan Posner is a contributor to MLB.com, based in Los Angeles.