Gray, Parra power Rocks past Phillies
Valaika blasts two-run homer in rare start at short
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.