DENVER -- Jon Gray seized the moment Wednesday night, establishing his stopper credentials and turning in his sixth quality start in his last seven outings, handing the Rockies their ninth victory in his last nine starts.A strong start, solid defense, an impenetrable bullpen performance and steady offense paced by a
DENVER -- Jon Gray seized the moment Wednesday night, establishing his stopper credentials and turning in his sixth quality start in his last seven outings, handing the Rockies their ninth victory in his last nine starts.
A strong start, solid defense, an impenetrable bullpen performance and steady offense paced by a pair of long, strange triples, combined to secure a 6-2 victory over the Padres to even the series and remain 1 1/2 games back of the D-backs in the National League West.
"It was a solid win," manager Bud Black said. "You like to have those types of games the entire season where it lines up and the guys do their thing. When you win, that's what happens. Tonight, Seunghwan Oh did a nice job, Otto [Adam Ottavino] went 1-2-3, and Scott Oberg went 1-2-3 in a four-run game. It was a solid-pitched game by us all the way around. One walk and double-digit strikeouts. Good game by us."
Gray rose to the challenge, adapting on a day when he didn't have his best stuff and holding the Padres to a pair of isolated runs, limiting them to five hits and a walk while notching five strikeouts -- ending the night one shy of 500.
"I know days are going to happen like that where things aren't going to be crisp and they're not going to be that great, but you still got to find a way to win and keep your team in the ballgame," Gray said. "I've gotten a lot better at that area of the game. I take a lot of pride in it, and want to just keep it going, moving forward."
The game had the look of déjà vu when Travis Jankowski singled on Gray's first pitch of the night, setting up a two-out RBI double from Cory Spangenberg to put the Rockies in an early deficit for the fifth straight game.
The Rockies bounced back quickly, however, with Charlie Blackmon leading off the bottom of the first with a single to center, stealing second, then scoring on Carlos Gonzalez's bloop single to left.
Colorado added on in the next inning with an RBI triple into the right-field corner from catcher Tony Wolters, who scored on a wild pitch. "I'm a baseball player," Wolters said. "I want to catch my butt off, that's my first priority. But I want to contribute offensively -- move guys over, get hit-and-runs, bunt. Today, I was there for the team and put together some good at bats. A lot of our guys did a great job tonight."
The Rockies went back to the triple well to pad their lead in the sixth, making the most of back-to-back inning-opening singles from Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, when Ian Desmond hit a three-bagger off the out-of-town scoreboard in right to open up a four-run lead.
Gray only allowed one hit from the second to sixth innings, then with one out in the seventh watched Freddy Galvis turn on a 2-1 slider and send it towering into the seats just fair of the right-field foul pole. After yielding a single to the next batter, Franmil Reyes, on his 89th pitch, Gray's night came to a close.
"I was actually supposed to throw it back-door," Gray said of the pitch to Galvis. "I yanked it down and in. I could have gotten away with it, but I just ran it right to his barrel. I tip my cap to him for hitting that pitch."
Gray finished with 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball and tied Ubaldo Jimenez's franchise record of nine consecutive starts resulting in a Rockies win, accomplished from May 15-June 28, 2010. Gray is 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA in seven starts since returning from a two-start trip to Triple-A, and he has held opponents to a .186 batting average over the span.
"It was very strangle, but I'm kind of glad all the bad stuff happened, because I feel like it's made me grow," Gray said of his stint in Albuquerque. "I'm really thankful for that, and thankful to be back here and doing what we're doing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Desi does it, redux: Desmond showed up big again, going 2-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base, two runs, and two RBIs from the seven-hole in the lineup. The triple was his third in the last eight games, and he leads the National League with six since July 1. He contributed to a run-scoring rally in three of his four at-bats, and the runs he scored and plated were the difference in the game.
"Little bit of a snapshot," Black said of Desmond's performance. "It comes in a lot of different ways with Ian. Today the big clutch triple that stretched the lead. Base hit late with the stolen base, pop and go to third [on a throwing error by Padres catcher Austin Hedges], score on a sac fly. The little things, the subtleties of the game that help us win -- he knows how to do that."
A source indicated Matt Holliday could earn a callup from Triple-A as early as Thursday. A spot on the 40-man roster opened up Wednesday when the Yankees claimed catcher Chris Robago off waivers, and Holliday has shown the organization what they need to see, hitting 345 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 55 at-bats through Tuesday. Holliday did not play in Wednesday's game in El Paso.
HE SAID IT
"Every pitcher tries to pitch to weak contact. You learn to do it by realizing that the ball down and away, the ball at the hands, changing up speeds to disrupt timing is what creates weak contact. Weak contact is just a result of good location. -- Black, on Gray's ability to shift his focus
Left-hander Kyle Freeland toes the rubber for the Rockies in Thursday's series finale with the Padres, facing fellow southpaw Joey Lucchesi at 1:10 p.m. MT. Freeland has been the Rockies' most consistent pitcher this season, posing an 11-7 record in 25 starts with a 2.96 ERA. The Denver native is 7-2 with a 2.22 ERA at Coors Field this season, and his career 3.06 ERA at home is the lowest in franchise history (minimum 100 innings pitched).
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.