Gray, Parra power Rocks past Phillies

Valaika blasts two-run homer in rare start at short

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pa­trick Saun­ders

In­spired by Jon Gray’s 16-strike­out per­for­mance in Septem­ber against San Diego, the fine folks at Coors Field in­stalled an au­dio clip into the pub­lic ad­dress sys­tem that emits a wolf’s howl ev­ery time Gray whiffs a bat­ter.

There were only four howls un­leashed Satur­day night, but Gray (Twit­ter han­dle Mr.gray­wolf22, in case you didn’t know) still man­han­dled Philadel­phia to lead the Rock­ies to an 8-5 win in front of 40,563 fans.

“I like it. I like it a lot. Let’s have some more of it,” Gray said of the howls.

The vic­tory was Colorado’s third straight, and the team has a chance to fin­ish sweep­ing the Phillies on Sun­day af­ter­noon. The Rock­ies, who im­proved to 35-20 at home, main­tained a 5K-game lead over Mil­wau­kee for the Na­tional League’s sec­ond wild-card spot.

Gray (4-2) pitched seven in­nings, al­low­ing one run. Al­though he got knocked around a bit, giv­ing up six hits, he was never in big trou­ble, in part be­cause he walked only one. The stocky right-han­der im­proved to 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA at Coors Field this sea­son.

“These are two, solid back-to­back games for Jon,” Rock­ies man­ager Bud Black said. “The last two games are in­dica­tive of what Jon can do. Seven in­nings, in con­trol, and he continues to pitch ag­gres­sively with the fast­ball, which I liked.”

It helped Gray that the Rock­ies came out swing­ing against Philadel­phia right-han­der Nick Pivetta, who suf­fered through a painful, five-run, 43-pitch first in­ning.

“It helps a lot,” Gray said of get­ting the early run sup­port. “You can just kind of set­tle in and fo­cus on your­self and work on shut­ting them down.”

The Rock­ies loaded the bases on a walk by Char­lie Black­mon, a hit by pitch to DJ Lemahieu and a sin­gle by Nolan Are­nado. En­ter cur­rent cleanup hit­ter Ger­ardo Parra. He blis­tered a two-run sin­gle to right-cen­ter. Then Mark Reynolds plated Are­nado on an in­field grounder. Add in first base­man Tommy Joseph’s two-run er­ror on Car­los Gon­za­lez’s hot shot and the Rock­ies were cruis­ing.

Ask Parra about his dis­ap­point­ing, in­jury-marred 2016 sea­son and you’ll get a stony glare and an “I don’t want to talk about last year.” This year, the Rock­ies’ mul­ti­fac­eted out­fielder is liv­ing large and flash­ing his in­fec­tious smile. He bat­ted 3-for-4 Satur­day night, raising his av­er­age to .361. Since com­ing off the dis­abled list July 7, Parra has treated games like bat­ting prac­tice. He has hit .443 (35-for-79) and rapped a base hit in 19-of-21 games.

“GP is swing­ing great. He’s been swing­ing great for a while,” Black said. “Three hits tonight. He’s hit­ting to all fields and he looks great. Let’s keep it going.”

Util­ity man Pat Valaika, who has sparkled as a pinch hit­ter this sea­son, got a rare start at short­stop in front of Trevor Story. Valaika feasted on the op­por­tu­nity, de­liv­er­ing an RBI sin­gle in the first and blast­ing a two-run homer to left in the third. It was Valaika’s 10th homer of the sea­son.

What looked like a tidy, easy vic­tory for Colorado was marred by a Phillies’ three-run eighth in­ning that co­in­cided with a chilly rain that be­gan to fall. The big swing came from Daniel Nava, who scored a three-run homer off of sel­dom-used re­liever Zac Ross­cup. Adam Ot­tavino came in to squelch the rally by strik­ing out Maikel Franco.

Matthew Stock­man, Getty Im­ages

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