Gomber continues to power starters through drought

July 1st, 2023

DENVER -- Rockies left-hander demonstrated Friday night that there’s a difference between bad luck and bad times.

In the fourth inning against the Tigers, three well-placed but not well-struck singles and a wild pitch threatened his early lead. Gomber noted that “I’ve been in that spot before and let it go the other way,” yet he took the game the right way.

Gomber retired 10 straight before a seventh-inning, one-out error, then ended his night with a double-play grounder. His seven innings in the 8-5 victory represented the deepest a Rockies starter has gone at Coors Field this season.

Lately, Gomber, who struck out a season-high seven, has been the only Rox starter to successfully fight a negative early spin. His three recent wins are the only victories from a starter since Kyle Freeland grabbed a "W" against the Phillies on May 14. 

During that month-and-a-half stretch, even big innings -- like the third, when the Rockies scored five runs on five singles and a sacrifice fly -- have turned moot because of starter struggles. Gomber hasn’t been exempt from such foibles. Saturday and last Sunday against the Angels mark the first time he has won two straight since his three-game run April 24-May 6.

Through a horrible first five starts this season, the hot streak and some iffy games before the last two, Gomber has strived to keep one start, good or bad, from bleeding into the next. 

“It's just trying to give the team a chance to win,” he said. “Getting you in the game has been a little bit more of an emphasis lately, just because of the situation we've been in. But a lot of times when you take that focus out there and you just try to be efficient, good things happen.

“Tonight was a good night for me, and I’ll spend the next couple of days getting ready for the next one.”

He’ll enjoy the review of Saturday, however briefly.

What once was a 5-0 lead had shrunk to 5-3 with no outs in the fourth before Gomber worked a Zack Short fly to shallow center.

Then, Gomber skimmed a 92 mph fastball off the bat of Jake Marisnick and into catcher Elias Díaz’s mitt for a strikeout. Gomber reacted with a bad-butt strut off the mound and snapped the return throw with his glove. He had put himself on a roll that would not stop.

“I really liked the way he finished,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “But the whole game, he was on. They got some seeing-eye ground balls. We didn’t make a play for him. But like I told him, on balance, that was one of the better games he's pitched all season. All four pitches were working.

“It’s a long year -- six months of starting pitching. There are going to be some peaks and valleys. But overall, he’s been reliable. I feel good about it. The walk totals are down. He’s given up a few homers. That’s the thing that we’re trying to minimize.”

Gomber was at 84 pitches when Black told him to bask in the warmth of this start -- a game that featured Ezequiel Tovar’s single to extend his hit streak to 13 games, Tovar's three-run homer in the sixth and Pierce Johnson’s 13th save.

Attention to recent delivery adjustments has allowed Gomber to repeat his fastball, which sets up other pitches. That has put Gomber further down the path than his rotation mates. 

Kyle Freeland is in the early stage of combatting a velocity drop. Between walks and fat fastballs, Chase Anderson is in a bad stretch. Rookie Connor Seabold is dealing with young-pitcher pains like getting ahead but letting veteran hitters work the count into their favor. Colorado's other rotation spot has been in flux. Lefty Ty Blach, promoted from Triple-A Albuquerque, is a good bet to start Saturday night, but nothing has been announced.

Rotation improvement can come only when most or all of the starters pull it together.

“We're putting ourselves in such a big hole early on, and that's stuff that we can control,” Gomber said. “Obviously, everybody's trying to go out there and have success, right? Nobody's trying to go out there and give up runs. It’s not for lack of effort or preparation. It's just a bottom-line business.

“Like, you just gotta be better.”