Seeing Jon Gray on the mound was a more than welcome sight Wednesday afternoon for the Colorado Rockies.
After Colorado pitching surrendered a combined 22 runs in back-to-back days against visiting San Francisco, the fireballing right-hander returned to the Rockies lineup after missing a start while being on the injured list since September 1 with right forearm tightness.
But Colorado Rockies pitcher Jon Gray looked to be his old self against the National League West leaders.
Showing no ill effects of his injury, Gray tossed five scoreless innings before running into trouble in the sixth and yet another Rox bullpen collapse led to a 7-4 loss at Coors Field.
San Francisco (90-50) battled back from behind twice, the final time with a four-run rally in the top of the ninth inning, to cap a three-game sweep of Colorado (63-77).
The Giants, sporting the best record in the Majors, tallied the decisive runs against recently promoted Rox closer Carlos Estevez, who, ironically, entered the game having compiled an 0.60 earned run average (15 IP, 1 ER) since July 31 — one day after Gray posted his last victory in a 9-4 Rockies win at San Diego.
Gray fanned eight — part of 17 strikeouts recorded by six Colorado pitchers in the contest — while allowing six hits and issuing just one walk in his 5.0-plus innings.
The veteran said that he had no issues with the velocity of his pitches in his return to action Wednesday.
"“We threw the fast ball really well, especially the first few innings,” said Gray, who finished with his second straight no decision after suffering losses in his previous four starts. He now has just one victory in last nine outings.“The off-speed (pitch), they had trouble with it, up in the zone so I thought it was a really good pitch today,” he added."
After Colorado ended the scoreless contest with a three-run fifth inning, Gray had a cushion to work with entering the sixth.
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But that cushion quickly evaporated when a pair of singles by the Giants to start the frame was followed by a three-run home run from Brandon Crawford. All three San Francisco hits were to the opposite (left) field.
Colorado regained the lead, 4-3, on a solo homer by Elias Diaz in the bottom of the sixth inning. The homer was part of a 3-for-4 day with two runs scored for the catcher.
The score remained the same until the fateful top of the ninth inning when Estevez entered and issued a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Buster Posey. The walk was followed by three successive singles — the final one from LaMonte Wade that sent home the tying and go-ahead runs.
Evan Longoria later would add a two-run double for the final three-run difference.
Gray actually knocked in the Rockies first run of the game in the fifth inning when his single plated Diaz, who had doubled. Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story also drove in runs during the uprising.
Before Estevez’s blown save, relievers Tyler Kinley, Lucas Gilbreath, and Jhoulys Chacin each tossed a scoreless inning of relief to give the Rox a chance to close out the game in the ninth.
Here are 3 things we learned from the Giants series
1. Getting 17 strikeouts does not guarantee a victory: Any time a pitching staff can combine for 17 strikeouts in a nine-inning game, one would like to think it would result in a victory. Such is not the case, though, particularly when playing a team that can produce runs like San Francisco has this year. The Giants actually outhit Colorado, 11-10, and bunched their hits into runs in two innings.
2. Opposing pitchers tough at the plate against Rox hurlers: After seeing San Francisco pitchers get hits and drive in runs in the opening two games of the series, Colorado pitching had allowed a Major League-high 33 hits to opposing pitchers this season. In a reversal of fortunes on Wednesday, Gray had an RBI single for the Rox while Giants pitchers went hitless.
3. Diaz continues to show improvement as a hitter: As part of his day Wednesday, Diaz had his 16th homer of the year plus a pair of doubles for his first career contest with three or more extra-base hits. In his last 16 games, 10 of his 13 hits have gone for extra bases (six doubles, three homers, one triple).
In the throes of a four-game losing streak following a 2-5 homestand, Colorado now embarks on an 11-day, 10-game road trip that will take the Rox to Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Washington. First up will be a four-game series with the Phillies with Game 1 of the series set for 5:05 p.m. (Mountain time) Thursday. Antonio Senzatela (4-9, 4.16 ERA) is slated to start in the opener for Colorado.