DENVER -- Right-hander Jon Gray dreams of his next chance in a big game. But the way this year has gone for the Rockies, pitching to save the season was good enough on Monday night.
Gray struck out six and limited the Dodgers to one run on three hits in eight innings as the Rockies -- fresh from a stinker of a road trip -- pulled up some smiles with a 9-1 victory at Coors Field to open a six-game, seven-day homestand.
Gray (10-7) left his last start after four innings, one run allowed, at Washington because of a bruised right calf sustained on a line-drive comebacker. The next day, he said he “didn’t want to miss” his start against the Dodgers. The last time he faced them, Gray held the presumptive National League West champions (they’ve won it the last six years and currently have a 14-game lead) to three runs (two earned) in a 5-3 win on June 29 at Coors. But he had more to show.
“First game back at home against the Dodgers is important,” Gray said. “I really needed a rematch against these guys anyway. I wanted to come in here, give our team a chance to win, really fight hard. We really responded tonight.
“That was the Rockies.”
The Rockies’ last two months have played out like the chorus of The Spinners’ 1975 classic, “Games People Play,” as in, “Night or day, they’re not matchin’.”
Well, make that home or road.
For example, in the last eight games of the just-completed road trip that saw the Rockies go 3-7, the starting pitchers -- maligned for their porous work at Coors -- posted a 3.20 ERA and held opponents to a .225 batting average in 45 innings. But the offense did next to nothing, and the Rockies came home eight games under .500.
The Trade Deadline is Wednesday, but there have been few whispers of what the Rockies will do. Their record doesn’t justify making a big trade for a postseason push, so the Rockies are going to have to spend the next two months playing the way they were designed -- and hope it’s enough to climb into the NL Wild Card picture.
“We’ve been one-sided all year, going back and forth, and we haven’t been on the same page a lot,” Gray said. “But when we’re feeding off each other’s energy, that’s when it kicks in. Offense does something great, we’re fired up in the dugout, it’s just a motivator, good energy going around.”
With the Rockies back home, it was high time the hitters hit. They chased Kenta Maeda after four innings, when the first seven batters reached in the fifth on the way to a five-spot that made it 6-0.
For the game, Ian Desmond tripled, singled and doubled. Nolan Arenado (8-for-33 on the road trip) delivered two hits, including a two-run single that he celebrated with hands raised, as the dugout cheered. David Dahl swatted a 431-foot homer to right field in the eighth inning.
“We’ve all been feeling like we’re all due,” Desmond said. “It’s just a matter of time before we link up. Today was a good sign. We’ve still got a lot of work to do and a lot of games to play. Hopefully, it’s not too late.”
Gray made sure the offensive breakout wasn’t wasted.
In the second, Gray shook off walks to Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager by finding the feel of his slider and fanning A.J. Pollock, Alex Verdugo and Will Smith to keep the game scoreless. Gray threw a season-high 112 pitches, and the second inning was the only time he faced more than one baserunner.
“All the credit goes to Jon,” Dahl said. “That’s pretty impressive, shutting down a lineup like that. We’ve just got to build off this win.”
Gray was hung with a label for not coming up big because of struggles in a few games -- the NL Wild Card loss to the D-backs in 2017, last season’s Opening Day and a late-2018 game against the Phillies that could have swung the division title to the Rockies. But Gray has, in a short time, become one of the best pitchers in club history.
Earning his 10th win on Monday tied him with Jorge De La Rosa for most seasons with double-digit wins in club history, and Gray is the first to do it in four consecutive years. He’s learned something in all this time.
“I’m very proud of him -- just the in-game poise, the in-game awareness and his self-awareness of what he needs to do,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “It’s really stepped up this season.”