Rockies follow Gray’s lead, capture series win over Phillies

Apr 21, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray (55) delivers a pitch in the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Easter Sunday’s most popular activity is scrounging around the backyard, gathering plastic eggs filled with gifts. The only thing the Colorado Rockies foraged for on the holiday was a win.

Hidden behind an array of missed opportunities early in the game, the Rockies found paydirt, clinching a series win over the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1.

Charlie Blackmon went 3-for-4 in the win, continuing his hot streak and Tony Wolters followed suit with a 2-for-3 day of his own.

Ahead are takeaways from a bright performance on a gloomy day for the surging Rockies.

Gray leaves Phillies seeing red

The Jon Gray experience has been one of several triumphant highs and even more lackluster lows. In 2018, those valleys even reached a demotion to Triple-A Albuquerque.

After intense training, a trip to Driveline and significant weight added in the offseason, the highs are coming in droves, including the former top prospect’s most recent outing. Against the Phillies, Gray finished off six innings without allowing a run, striking out five in the process. He only allowed a single hit.

Leading the success for Gray was a vicious slider. On the day, he tallied 4-of-5 punchouts with the pitch, three spotted well below the zone.

The strikeouts came in crucial moments as well, including a whiffle-ball-quality breaking ball to Bryce Harper in the fourth inning with a runner on. 

On the year, Gray has now allowed 10 earned runs across his first 32.1 innings of 2019. In comparison, last year’s total through the same five-start span was 21 in 26.2.

Without the pressure of a top-of-the-rotation moniker, Gray has thrived.

Rockies reverse course with runners on

Across the first five innings, outside of their lone run, the Rockies offensive efforts were muted. The traffic on the base paths was consistent nonetheless.

In the game’s opening five stanzas, the Rockies left six runners on, three of which were in scoring position. The biggest blunder came on a one-out triple from Charlie Blackmon that failed to result in a run, despite the team’s leaders David Dahl and Nolan Arenado getting a chance.

Their fortunes made a u-turn in the next inning as both Ian Desmond and Tony Wolters came through, the latter on a double to the gap to score a pair:

A common trend throughout the team this year has been trying “too hard” with runners in scoring position. As their approaches have changed, so too have their rewards.

Human error is undefeated

Last season, the Rockies infield featured three Gold Glove recipients. With D.J. LeMahieu gone, that infield is now at two award winners with Garrett Hampson in his stead.

On Sunday, the switch went poorly.

At the fourth inning’s onset, Hampson booted a grounder to his right, a mildly challenging play, but one LeMahieu made countless times in his stint with the franchise. Only two hitters later, Hampson dropped a toss from Trevor Story on a possible double play that would’ve ended the inning and concealed Gray’s no-hit bid. Instead, Maikel Franco stepped up to the plate soon after and lined a double to right field.

Franco once again benefitted from a Rockies’ blunder when Ryan McMahon dropped a pop-up in foul territory after calling off a charging Wolters. The at-bat resulted in a walk for the Phillies’ third baseman.

Neither came back to haunt the club, thanks to Gray, but their fate could’ve easily turned with the miscues.

Winning baseball becoming a trend

If you’d have asked someone how many series the Rockies would win through their first five, few would’ve answered zero. After an uncommonly slow start, the club is making up for their struggles.

Against the San Diego Padres and visiting Phillies, the Rockies won 5-of-6, registering their inaugural series wins of 2019. In the pair, they outscored their opponents by 14 runs, finally ridding themselves of their constant struggles.

The starting staff hurled 36.2 innings across the six games with a 1.96 earned run average, eerily similar to the staff’s dominant stretches last year.

At the plate, the club has also garnered steam with a .292 batting average in the same pair of series. They’ve also belted 10 home runs in their last six games, a vast improvement over their identical figure in the first 16 contests.

A fellow National League East foe is on the docket for the Rockies as the Washington Nationals come into town next, led by stalwarts Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. In the three games, they’ll also avoid facing both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.