Denver -- Much discussed and highly-touted Rockies pitching prospect Jon Gray made his season debut Friday night to mixed results. He was shaky early, brilliant at times, and ran into some tough luck in the fifth, chasing him from the game earlier than he would have liked. He had a career high in strikeouts, but it was not the outing Gray wanted.
The Los Angeles Dodgers plated three runs in the first inning off of the rookie pitcher on the backs of two monster home runs from Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez.
The Dodgers threatened again in the fourth, getting Yasiel Puig to third base with just one out, but Gray struck out Yasmani Grandal and Howie Kendrick, back-to-back, to end the threat. They were Gray's sixth and seventh punchouts of the evening.
The Rockies took the lead in the bottom of the frame on a pair of home runs from Arenado and Ryan Raburn. But the Dodgers struck right back in the top of the fifth with two runs of their own, coming on a series of singles, the final blow coming from Gonzalez. Gray finished the inning, and his night, with his career-high 10th strikeout in the against Puig.
"After I decided that I just wasn't gonna let it happen anymore," says Gray, "I felt a lot better.
Gray finished the game with 5 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 10 K. He threw 95 pitches, 55 for strikes.
"His slider was filthy," said manager Walt Weiss pinpointing the adjusment Gray made after the first inning. "He started going to it and I thought he did a great job. He hung in there, didn't get flustered whatsoever, and threw the ball really well after that. I'm really proud of him."
The Rockies looked like they would tie things in the bottom of the fifth when Trevor Story his yet another ball off the new fences seperating the field from the bullpen in right. What happened next defied logic, belief, and a least a few of the laws of physics.
On one of the most impressive throws in the history of MLB, Yasiel Puig gunned down Story trying to reach third in what can only be described as a brief glimpse into the world of magic.
The Rockies eventually did tie it up in the seventh. Raburn and Wolters worked excellent at-bats which resulted in a single and walk respectively and the two were moved over by a sac bunt from Christian Adames. In the midst of a bit of a slump, DJ LeMahieu came to the plate and on the first pitch he saw, delivered a sacrifice fly to right field, tying the game. Puig was unable to come up with his second superhuman throw of the game.
The Rox struck again in the bottom of the eighth, this time with two outs themselves wen Brandon Barnes smashed a triple after a prlonged battle with Chris Hatcher.
Barnes says this year's Rockies team is a different one. "It feels more like a family now.E We love each other and we battle for each other because we know that is the only way we are going to beat a team like that," he says.
Jake McGee came on and closed things out with a clean ninth, picking up his fourth Save of the year. He has yet to blow a Save on the year.
Until the Brandon Barnes AB in the eighth, Gray's inability to close out the fifth was the turning point, and in most other Rockies games in most other Rockies seasons, that would have been it. But the Rockies battled and grinded at-bats all night and Barnes was a symbol and embodiment of that work paying off.
This is why we watch sports. There are no words that make this better:
"It just came down to a choice, stay out there and get rocked or buckle down and keep the team in the game." -Jon Gray
By the Numbers
0.34 - The Dodgers bullpen brought a 0.34 ERA in the last seven game into this one. They gave up three runs to the Rockies.
10 - Jon Gray reached his career high mark at 10 punchouts in one game.
1 - The number of curveballs that Jon Gray threw.
1 - The number of curveballs tha Jon Gray threw that were hit out of the park.
It was a hard fought game beginning to end. It was a tough game against a divisional opponent with lofy expectations and the Rockies missed some opportunities and gave away some runs, but they still find a way to come out on top which feels distinct and unique among other Rockies teams of the past. They call these "confidence builders."