Mired in an eight-game losing streak and playing some of their worst baseball of the 2017 season, the Colorado Rockies needed a spark on Friday night in Arizona. They received it in the form of Jon Gray.
Making his return from the disabled list and taking the mound for the first time since mid-April, Colorado’s ace looked every bit like a number one pitcher on Friday night, striking out 10 and scattering seven hits in six innings. Gray’s impressive return was a big reason for Colorado shaking off its skid and posting a 6-3 win over the Diamondbacks in the opener of an important three-game series in the desert.
Gray’s slider was just as potent as it has ever been. Ask Paul Goldschmidt, who struck out three times against Gray. Ask many of the Diamondbacks, who witnessed the seventh time Gray has posted double-digit marks in strikeouts.
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Are you ready for a weird stat? Friday’s effect earned Gray his first win of the season. Think back to spring training. If you had heard Gray wouldn’t win his first game until June 30, you probably would have thought this was going to be a disastrous season. Nope. Colorado is now 48-34 on the season. Baseball is a funny game.
Certainly there was more to Colorado’s win on Friday than its starting pitcher. Charlie Blackmon set the tone with a leadoff homer. Raimel Tapia popped his first-ever Major League home run as part of a 2-for-4 night at the plate. Yes, Colorado’s offense flashed signs of life, a sight rarely seen over the last eight games.
However, the confidence knowing that the ace had returned to the rotation was palpable for the Rockies on Friday night. Colorado needed an emotional boost and received one with Gray taking the mound.
Gray coming back to the Rockies was also a reminder of just how talented Colorado’s rotation is and can be when it does its job. There will be plenty of talk leading up to the trade deadline about the Rockies needing to acquire a veteran starting pitcher to boost the rotation. However, number 55 sent a subtle reminder in Phoenix that there’s a reason why he’s considered the ace of the Colorado pitching staff.
Yes, it was just one game in the 162-game schedule, but Friday night was important on a number of levels. Tapia may have “mucho swagger” when he takes the field but the Rockies had a swagger with Gray on the mound that has been sorely lacking for some time.