DENVER -- Jon Gray lightened his load between starts after exiting a June 22 start early with arm fatigue. That appears to be paying off, as he logged his second straight quality start in Friday's 5-3 loss to the Phillies.Gray struck out eight over 6 1/3 innings, held Philadelphia to
DENVER -- Jon Gray lightened his load between starts after exiting a June 22 start early with arm fatigue. That appears to be paying off, as he logged his second straight quality start in Friday's 5-3 loss to the Phillies.
Gray struck out eight over 6 1/3 innings, held Philadelphia to three hits and two walks and was briefly in line for the win. He was charged with two runs, both of which scored on losing pitcher Jake McGee on a single from César Hernández and a home run from Tommy Joseph.
"I was just locked in from the beginning," Gray said. "I knew everything was going to work well judging by how I felt in the bullpen. I was just ready to go into attack mode."
Gray was notably impressive early in the game, when he has historically struggled. He had a 7.07 ERA in the first and second innings this season coming into the start but retired all six batters Friday, including two on strikeouts.
"Especially early on, his slider was wipeout. Really good slider," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "[His] velocity was up. I thought he maintained his stuff. Early on especially, he was filthy."
Gray attributed his success early to mixing his pitches well, especially utilizing his rarely used curveball. Gray got three swings and misses with the pitch -- including a fourth-inning strikeout of Maikel Franco -- and threw strikes on nine of his 14 curveball offerings. The Phillies were not able to put the pitch in play.
Another factor to his success has been his familiarity with Coors Field. This was his 12th start in Denver. In his last four home starts, he has limited opponents to 10 runs over 25 1/3 innings.
"I've come to like throwing here," Gray said. "Just the way the plate looks, everything else looks, the mound feels. I just have a comfortable feeling now. I'm not sure how many starts, but I've had a few. I'm comfortable with it."
Gray's control faded in his final frame, as he walked the leadoff hitter on four pitches with several big misses and threw a wild pitch to the next batter. That, combined with more effort in his delivery prompted Weiss to switch to McGee to get a better matchup on the switch-hitter Hernandez.
But despite the shaky ending, there are plenty of signs of improvement lately. Gray has a 20-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio since his arm fatigue-shortened start and didn't allow a home run for the first start in nine appearances.
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver.