Gray throws Padres’ lineup a curve

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke

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.”

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