Notes: Putaway pitch missing; injury updates

September 2nd, 2020

DENVER -- The Rockies have spent much of this season struggling to come up with the big hit, but now the big pitch is eluding the starting rotation.

It seems absurd to discuss a big pitch, since the Rockies are coming off a 23-5 loss to the Giants on Tuesday night and entered Wednesday's game have been outscored during their current homestand, 55-15. But big pitches are how games get away.

For example:

• Righty had a chance to limit the Giants' first-inning damage to one run Tuesday, but with two out and two on, he left a slider in the middle of the plate that Donovan Solano crushed for a two-run double. In the second, two out and two strikes to Alex Dickerson turned into a two-run homer when Gray left a low slider in the middle of the plate.

• The Rockies and the Padres were scoreless with two out in the third on Monday, before ace Germán Márquez missed in the middle with a low slider that Fernando Tatis Jr. crushed for a triple during a three-run inning in a 6-0 loss.

's seven scoreless innings against the Padres on Saturday represented the only decent start for the rotation during the last turn. However, in his Aug. 23 start against the Dodgers, he threw a high fastball that Enrique Hernández turned into a three-run homer to break up a 2-2 deadlock.

After starting the season 11-3, the Rockies woke up Wednesday morning below the threshold for the eight-team postseason. Season-long offensive struggles caught up with the team early in its slump, but at least it could point to a rotation that leads the National League with 18 quality starts. But the recent trend of not making the big pitch means the rotation is not keeping the team at least in position to scratch out something offensively.

"It's sort of the converse of what's happening on offense when you'll get on it and get some traffic, [but] we can't seem to get the big hit," said Rockies manager Bud Black, who said each pitcher's issues are different and have to be addressed individually. "It's happening on the pitching side. We haven't been able to get through innings and limit damage once they do get it."

Got to get to the bottom
Black hopes everyone can get on the same page to keep Gray's inconsistency from going from frustrating to confusing. Gray's last six starts have alternated -- one some version of good, the next awful. Tuesday was seven runs and nine hits in 2 2/3 innings.

"I've got to find a way to get my velo back up. I've got to find a way to snap my slider off," Gray said after Tuesday's game.

It was the second time this season Gray expressed not being happy with his velocity. Last season, when he posted a 3.84 ERA and struck out 150 in as many innings, his four-seam fastball averaged 96 mph, while this year it is at 93.9. In his last good start, at Arizona, he was close to his previous average and -- more importantly -- the sharpness of his slider seemed connected to the force of his fastball.

"What a difference a week makes, right?" Black said. "We were talking about how good Jon was."

But Gray's four-seamer was down to 93.8 mph Tuesday, and his sliders were crushed on key pitches.

Black has maintained that Gray is pitching with enough velocity, just not enough sharpness. Black said he would follow up with Gray on his velocity concerns, but he explained what could be happening with his slider.

"A lot of times with a good pitcher, when they don't have the feel for the breaking pitches, they have a tendency to overthrow it and you can sort of throw through the spin," Black said. "A lot of times you can try to create more breaking, and it has the opposite effect. So there's a feel to it."

• Righty Ryan Castellani, who allowed the Padres five runs and six hits in two innings in his last start on Sunday, remains in the rotation for Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Righty Chi Chi González, in the rotation early before being forced out by right biceps tendinitis, replaced Castellani and held the Padres to one run in four innings. González remained in the bullpen as a long reliever.

• Black said the right shoulder capsule injury that forced rookie infielder Brendan Rodgers to the injured list should heal quickly. Rodgers was hurt when he slid awkwardly and was landed on by Padres third baseman Manny Machado on Saturday.