Gray throws Padres’ lineup a curve
As the heat climbed toward 97 degrees Wednesday and the air dried out like a week-old hot dog, Coors Field, as it does, turned into that weird, old launching pad of home runs and gap shots. The scoreboard ticked off 13 runs through five innings.
But they were all Rockies runs. Jon Gray faced no such difficulty shutting down the San Diego Padres through five scoreless frames in Colorado’s 18-4 rout for a series sweep. Flashing his best curveball of the season and a fastball-slider combo to match, Gray powered through the San Diego Padres’ lineup.
“You can feel that warming up before the game, how dry the ball is in your hand,” Gray said at his locker after the Rockies won a fourth consecutive game and their first series sweep since June 18. “Just know that and make sure to get pitches down. Because sometimes they can get up on you. It’s good to think about before you make every pitch — not in the middle of it.”
That plan extended well into Wednesday morning, when Gray sat with veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan and his pitching coaches to plot out a plan. San Diego’s lineup loves fastballs.
So Gray plotted out a series of breaking pitches, starting with his curveball. With runners at first and third in the fourth, he caught Jabari Blash looking for with the hook, then set up Franchy Cordero with two curves for strikes before whiffing him on a slider two at-bats later.
“Separation is good with these guys,” Gray said. “We needed to throw it for strikes.”
Gray was coming off his worst outing of the season, an eight-run, two-inning bombardment at New York last week against the Mets. Rockies manager Bud Black started Gray in his team’s first game back from the all-star break, a nod that placed the 25-year-old righthander at the top of Colorado’s rotation.
“The fastball was located better early in the game and the slider got better as the game went on, and a good, effective curveball,” Black said. “Nice three-pitch mix. That was a big confidence boost for Jon, not only today, but moving forward.”
Gray, who was touched for four runs in the sixth, earned his third win this season after missing 77 days with a broken foot suffered in April, He finished with seven strikeouts on two walks and seven hits as the six innings pitched was his longest outing of the season at Coors Field. It was set up with an 80 mph curveball.
“The more and more I use it, the better it gets,” he said. “It’s a feel pitch. It can’t be thrown lazy. But whenever it’s thrown well, it’s a really good pitch. And it’s a groundball pitch. It’ll be a weapon.”
Blackmon Footnotes. removed.
Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon was pulled in the middle of an atbat in the sixth inning after two separate cramps crept into his left leg, one in his quadriceps, another in his hamstring. Blackmon said he did not suffer an injury, just slight dehydration.
“I just took a swing and right as I used my hamstring, it cramped up,” he said. “It’s just a sign you’re dehydrated. It was never sore. It never hurt. Just a cramp.”
The Rockies activated outfielder David Dahl (rib stress) from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A, where he has been playing in a rehab stint. The move takes Colorado to a full 40-man roster. … Righthander Jairo Diaz threw two shutout innings in relief, his longest outing since Sept. 1, 2015. Black was determined to let Diaz go, even sending him to the on-deck circle in the eighth. Diaz, a former catcher, has never seen a plate appearance in the majors. “I was ready,” he said laughing. “But I was a catcher, like, eight years ago.”