Colorado Rockies starter Jon Gray had himself a Saturday night to remember against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. Gray had his first complete game, only allowing four singles and set a new Rockies-record with 16 punchouts. Was his effort the best ever in a game by a Rockies pitcher?
Gray was simply dominant for the Rockies. He had the command back on his slider, and his fastball was painting both sides of the plate. He struck out four batters in the second inning (one on a passed ball) and between the second and the third innings he struck out six Padres in succession.
Gray’s best pitch is his slider, but it had gone missing in his last four or so starts. He had it back on Saturday night – of his 16 strikeouts, 12 were from the slider, three were from the fastball and one was on a curveball, per Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post.
Gray was excited about his complete game effort, not knowing he had set a new strikeout record.
“I didn’t even know about the (strikeout) record,” Gray said via Saunders. “I just knew I had thrown a complete game and I was really pumped about it.”
Gray’s final line read:
9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 16 K, 113 pitches (78 for strikes).
So how does Gray’s performance compare to other Rockies’ great pitching performances?
The first great pitching performance that comes to mind is Ubaldo Jimenez‘s no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves on April 17, 2010:
9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 BB, 7 K, 128 pitches (72 for strikes).
Jimenez’ effort was sensational, and it remains the only no-hitter in Rockies history. However, despite it being a no-hit performance, the six walks really stand out as a negative.
Darryl Kile struck out 14 Expo’s in a 6-3 Rockies win on August 20, 1998.
Aaron Cook threw a 79-pitch complete game against the Padres on July 1, 2008:
9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 79 pitches (58 for strikes).
Gray’s performance was also the most strikeouts thrown at Coors Field, breaking Randy Johnson‘s 14 strikeouts for the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 13, 2001.
The Padres didn’t have the same potent lineup compared with a Chicago Cubs or a Boston Red Sox, but they are not chump change either. They had scored seven runs the night before, and they were coming off a sweep of the San Francisco Giants were they scored 13 runs in the series at batter-unfriendly AT&T Park.
I think Gray’s performance was the best-ever by a Rockies pitcher in a game. There are some worthy candidates (and I only touched on a couple of them), but Gray was sheer domination. Not one Padre reached second base and Gray had only five three-ball counts.
Per Adam Peterson of Purple Row, Gray had the highest game score of the season by any pitcher in any game this season:
"His game score of 102 (according to MLB.com) is the highest in MLB this season and he allowed just four hits in the game and walked none. In all it was easily the most dominant pitching performance at Coors Field since Hideo Nomo no-hit the Rockies twenty years ago to the day. (Nomo walked four and struck out eight in still the only no-hitter thrown in Coors Field history.)"
Though it is tempting to go with Jimenez’ no-hitter as the best ever by a Rockies pitcher, for sheer dominance, at hitter-friendly Coors Field, in completely overwhelming a MLB lineup coming off twenty runs in their last four games, Gray’s performance gets the nod.
And with a bit of luck, we may see more games like this from Gray, as he went into this game with a new-found mindset.
“It’s night and day difference,” he said via Saunders. “I feel like I belong out here this year. I told myself, ‘I’m here for a reason, so when not show it off?’ That has been my thought process this year: ‘Go show it off.’”
Yes, Jon, please do keep showing it off!