Colorado Rockies morning after: Austin Gomber great in return from IL

Jul 21, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Austin Gomber (26) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 21, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Austin Gomber (26) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

With the seemingly non-stop shuffling of players on and off the active roster for the Colorado Rockies recently, the team needed a steadying influence Wednesday in the final contest of a five-game homestand.

Austin Gomber, who was activated Wednesday morning after spending more than a month on the Injured List, provided just what the Colorado Rockies needed to counter the flux created by a constantly changing roster.

The left-hander started and tossed six solid innings while holding Seattle to just three hits and three runs as Colorado bolted to an early five-run lead on the way to a 6-3 victory before a crowd of 25,053 at Coors Field.

The win allowed the Rox (42-54) to split the brief two-game set between the two interleague foes and give the Rockies a 2-3 mark for the homestand before the club takes to the road for an 11-day, 10-game road trip to the West Coast.

The victory, which included a three-run double by catcher Dom Nuñez to cap a five-run first inning for Colorado, also upped the team’s interleague mark this season to 8-4, including a final 7-3 record for home contests against American League opponents. Colorado’s final eight interleague games of 2021 will be on the road.

In just the last week since the All-Star Game, injuries as well as COVID protocols have created an onslaught of nearly daily transactions that have sidelined both players and coaches, including manager Bud Black.

Prior to Wednesday, Gomber’s last action for the Rockies was a brief two-inning home start June 19 against Milwaukee. He was placed on the IL June 20 due to left forearm tightness.

In his previous eight starts before going on the IL, Gomber was 4-1 with a 1.62 earned run average. During those eight starts, he ranked first in the Majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio (14.00) and walks per nine innings (0.61). He had hurled 22 consecutive innings without surrendering a walk before going on the IL.

Despite his lengthy absence, Gomber appeared to be in mid-season form on Wednesday afternoon against the surging Mariners (51-45), who are now 20-10 in their last 30 games (their 20-9 mark in the past 29 games entering action Wednesday was the best mark in the Majors since June 13).

But Gomber carved up Seattle’s bats in his return, needing only 71 pitches to complete six innings. The three hits he allowed each went for solo home runs. He fanned three and issued his first base on balls sine May 29. The walk snapped a string of 23 straight innings without a walk. The streak is the second longest in franchise history (mark is 23.2 innings set by Jose Jimenez in 2002) and the longest streak for a Rox starting pitcher.

Gomber was not just good. He was great in his return from the IL, according to bench coach Mike Redmond, who is filling in as acting manager while Black remains out per MLB COVID and contact tracing protocols.

"“I think we were all really excited by the way he went out there and commanded the strike zone,” Redmond told media, including Rox Pile, after the game. “I think it happens a lot, right, where guys come up and they haven’t pitched in awhile and have a little tough time in the strike zone. But he didn’t have any of those problems. He commanded all of his pitches. He was able to throw his breaking balls for strikes and his change ups.“He looked sharp in really every facet of pitching,” added Redmond."

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For his part, Gomber was glad to be off the IL and back on the mound for the Rockies.

"“It’s just good to be back. I feel like part of the team again,” he said. “When you get into these long seasons and you are playing every day, and then you go on the DL, you almost feel kind of detached from it because you are not out there with the boys grinding every day.“It’s just good to be back, good to feel like part of the team,” he added. “We are excited to get on this road trip and prove we are a better team on the road than we have been so far.”"

The upcoming road trip will take Colorado to meet the Los Angeles Dodgers (three games), the Los Angeles Angels (three games) and the San Diego Padres (four games).

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First up, after a day off from action Thursday, will be a return matchup with the Dodgers after the defending World Series champs took two of three games from Colorado last weekend in Denver.  In the series opener Friday, Chi Chi Gonzalez (3-6, 5.99) is slated to start for the Rockies with first pitch set for 8:10 p.m. (Mountain time).