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'Sheriff' HR backs 'Gray Wolf' in Rockies' win

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Hungry for ace status, Jon Gray (aka "Gray Wolf") took a nice bite Sunday by striking out seven in six scoreless innings as the Rockies defeated the Braves, 3-0, to win a series at SunTrust Park.

Gray (6-3) dealt with runners in scoring position just twice; he forced a Matt Adams lineout to right to end the fourth, and with two on in the sixth, he coaxed consecutive flies to center from Nick Markakis and Kurt Suzuki.

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ATLANTA -- Hungry for ace status, Jon Gray (aka "Gray Wolf") took a nice bite Sunday by striking out seven in six scoreless innings as the Rockies defeated the Braves, 3-0, to win a series at SunTrust Park.

Gray (6-3) dealt with runners in scoring position just twice; he forced a Matt Adams lineout to right to end the fourth, and with two on in the sixth, he coaxed consecutive flies to center from Nick Markakis and Kurt Suzuki.

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Video: COL@ATL: Gray induces fly ball to escape jam

Gray's work was a key reason the Rockies, holding the second National League Wild Card spot, finished the road trip 3-3 and built momentum for a nine-game homestand that begins Monday. While the key runs came on Mark Reynolds' two-run homer in the sixth, the offense went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

"I knew it could change in a blink of an eye, but I was just thinking about the pitches, executing, seeing the out before I threw the ball, and it seemed to help," Gray said. "It was a good test, because I know we're going to have some really tough series coming up."

Gray performed like what catcher Tony Wolters says he is: a "big-game pitcher." Only a high pitch count (99), partly because of two walks and some lengthy at-bats, shortened Gray's outing.

"At times it was good-old country Oklahoma hardball. I like that, and our guys can do that in the rotation," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "He commanded the slider both backdoor and down and in to the lefties, down and away to the righties, and had effective use of the curveball. He and Tony worked great together."

Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz (10-10) faced regular traffic on the basepaths with four hits and three walks, but yielded just one run in five innings. Foltynewicz labored through the start and ran up a high pitch count early.

"It was a battle today out there," said Foltynewicz.

However, he was able to limit the damage thanks in part to good defense behind him. Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte and left fielder Adams made a couple nice plays to save additional runs. It allowed Foltynewicz to bounce back and finish his start by retiring the last seven batters he faced.

Video: COL@ATL: Inciarte tracks back to make great catch

"His command wasn't real good," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He fought through it, never gave in and kept his wits about him. It could have been a lot worse. He made pitches when he had to and avoided the big inning. He gave us a chance to win."

Video: COL@ATL: Foltynewicz strikes out Wolters in the 2nd

Folty gets some confidence back in loss

However, Reynolds, wearing "Sheriff" on his back -- a Players Weekend nod to his nickname, "Sheriff of Swattingham" -- homered for the 28th time this season and second time in the series in the sixth off A.J. Minter to account for two runs.

Video: COL@ATL: Reynolds launches a two-run homer in the 6th

Jake McGee shut the door by pitching a perfect ninth to finish off the Rockies' seventh shutout this season.

Video: COL@ATL: McGee picks up his third save of year

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Don't tread on Tony: Wolters was the Rockies' primary catcher before he was demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque when the team acquired veteran Jonathan Lucroy on July 30. The plan was for him to clean up fundamentals, as well as regain his hitting stroke. On Sunday, he showed that his throwing -- always a strength -- is still in good shape.

He ended the first inning by catching Freddie Freeman trying to swipe second to end a strikeout double play, and closed the fifth by catching Swanson. Wolters credited Gray, who has been working on controlling the running game.

Video: COL@ATL: Wolters throws out Swanson at second

"He did a great job mixing up his times and giving runners a harder time to get a good break. ... You throw guys out because of the pitcher's time," Wolters said.

Bullpen pickup: Pat Neshek replaced Gray with no outs and a man on in the seventh. He would finish the frame by coaxing a double-play grounder from Matt Kemp, made possible by a nice backhand pickup from Trevor Story (aka "Joe"). Mike Dunn and McGee, who earned the save the last two games of the series, finished the Rockies' first shutout in Atlanta since Sept. 4, 2012, at Turner Field.

Video: COL@ATL: Story starts inning-ending double play

Series win important as Rockies head back home

QUOTABLE
"I don't care if you're 19 years old or 40 years old. If you're in September and you're playing meaningful baseball, you feel like you're 12 playing Little League." -- Reynolds, 34, who recorded his 801st career RBI Sunday and surpassed 5,000 career at-bats Saturday night

"[Minter] is going to learn as he goes out there. He has really good stuff and is not afraid. I think he will be fine; you can tell he is not afraid to go after guys. It's going to be a learning curve for him, but you like what you see out of him." -- Snitker

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Against the Braves, Gray is 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts, with 29 strikeouts and eight walks.

AFTER REVIEW
Wolters' second erasure of a runner at second was upheld after a Braves challenge, thanks in part to a pinpoint throw and smooth sweep tag by Story. Swanson slid head-first, but replay showed Story's glove made contact with Swanson's left arm in time.

WHAT'S NEXT
Rockies: Rookie righty Antonio Senzatela (10-4, 4.52 ERA), who returned to the rotation with a solid 81-pitch performance at Kansas City last week, will open a key nine-game homestand against righty Jordan Zimmermann (7-11, 6.11) and the Tigers on Monday at 6:40 p.m. MT.

Braves: Lucas Sims will get the start when Atlanta begins a three-game series in Philadelphia on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Sims has won his past two starts and completed at least five innings in his first five career starts.

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 @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.