Gray sets Rockies record with 16-K shutout
Rookie fans 4 in 2nd inning en route to first career CG
DENVER -- Rockies rookie right-hander Jon Gray was too busy talking to himself to eat much Saturday. "A protein shake, a banana and Goldfish," he said.
Sufficiently hungry like the wolf by game time, Gray ate the Padres' lineup alive while achieving a club-record 16 strikeouts and throwing the first complete game and shutout of his career, an 8-0 domination at Coors Field.
Gray surpassed Darryl Kile's 14 strikeouts, achieved Aug. 29, 1998, at Montreal. Also, while throwing 113 pitches without walking anyone, Gray surpassed Hall of Famer Randy Johnson's record of 14 K's at Coors, for the D-backs on April 13, 2001.
"I grew up playing the guy on video games -- him and Nolan Ryan," Gray said.
Shawn Chacon held the old Rockies home record for strikeouts, 13 on June 7, 2001, against the Astros.
Gray added another club mark by striking out six straight in the second and third innings. The second inning, Gray achieved the third four-strikeout inning in Rockies history. Catcher Tom Murphy's passed ball let Jon Jay reach. It was the 82nd four-strikeout inning in MLB history and the sixth this season.
The 24-year-old's second-inning strikeout of Oswaldo Arcía was his 200th in his 192nd career inning. The only other Rockies pitcher to fan 200 in fewer than his first 200 innings was Rex Brothers -- 200 in 163 1/3.
"Seeing what Jon did tonight is unforgettable," said Murphy, a September callup who also might remember his two home runs and five RBIs, both bests during his time in the Majors. "That last strikeout there and seeing Jon get fired up there, it gives you chills."
On start days, Gray barely eats and doesn't talk much -- to the chagrin of his wife, Jacklyn, he has said. But he listens to his mind pump him with positive predictions he will visualize. He kept the curveball in the strike zone, held his fastball in the 95-97-mph range and devastated hitters with a slider that was good for 12 third strikes.
"Just keep doing what you're doing," he said, recalling his affirmations. "Throw with the hands. Throw strikes with the curveball. Put people away with the slider. Just try to stick that thing all night."
Gray listened to himself when it came to his slider, the pitch that deserted him when he gave up five runs on eight hits in four innings in his last start -- a 6-3 loss at San Diego.
"Downhill, downhill, downhill -- start it down and it can't go up," he said.
Gray's previous career high was 13 strikeouts, also against the Padres on June 5.
"The first time I faced him, I knew he was a really good pitcher," said Wil Myers, who had one of the Padres' four hits and struck out twice. "Tonight, he showed it. He commanded both sides of the plate, had people very in-conscious, and had that wipeout slider going, too."
Gray is backing his positive talk with action.
The best night of his career came four days shy of a calendar year after one of his worst. He gave up nine hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Pirates last Sept. 21. In an interview in which he wore a hooded sweatshirt, he talked about needing to figure out how to pitch at Coors. It seemed a night full of red flags.
Gray didn't start again the rest of the year, but he began learning a curveball and reflecting and understanding that he was the third overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, out of the University of Oklahoma, for a reason.
"His body language, his confidence, his stuff ... He's really made a transformation," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "I think a lot of it you could see earlier this year, he believes he's good, he belongs here. He cleared that hurdle some time earlier this year."
Gray fanned two in the ninth -- Adam Rosales, whom he caught looking at a 95.7-mph fastball, to surpass Kile and Ryan Schimpf on a 91.2-mph slider.
He finished the night planning to "pig out." He can pass on tips about devastating pitches and positive thinking. Gameday nutrition?
"Banana, yes," he said. "Protein shake, yes. Goldfish. Eh. If you need a little extra carbs, go for Goldfish."