Rockies use strong starting pitching to take series vs. D-backs

Apr 8, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray (55) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies, after losing three of four against the defending World Series-champion Los Angeles Dodgers to start 2021, bounced back in a big way against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Germán Márquez, Antonio Senzatela, and Jon Gray all provided quality starts for the Rockies, who took two of three from the D-backs to improve to 3-4 through the season’s first week. It was a welcome sight from a group that, overall, didn’t look good the first time through. Of course, the opponent had quite a bit to do with that; the Dodgers in 2020 led baseball with a wRC+ of 122, while Arizona ranked 26th in the league at 88. But equally mediocre D-backs teams have caused the Rockies headaches before, so let’s consider this a building block.

The D-backs took the series opener in 13 innings, 10-8, handing the Rockies their fourth consecutive loss. But Colorado rode eight scoreless innings from Senzatela en route to an 8-0 victory on Wednesday and got another strong outing from Gray in a 7-3 win Thursday. Gray no-hit the D-backs through six innings before surrendering a pair of hits and a run in the seventh. Gray, the one member of the Rox rotation who didn’t get roughed up in the series against L.A., owns a 1.54 ERA through his first two starts.

What (else) went right

Ryan McMahon led the Rockies with five hits in the series, but the impressive part is that three of those were home runs—all of which came in the series-opening loss. It was McMahon’s first career three-homer game, and an indication of his capabilities.

McMahon is one of the best hitters on the team in terms of quality of contact and selectivity at the plate. But he’s been held down by too many grounders and strikeouts. Though it’s obviously still early, he’s cut way down on the whiffs and he’s putting the ball in the air with much more regularity. Those are the keys to McMahon’s offensive game, and if he can make even minimal gains over the course of a full season, he has a chance to be an All-Star-level player.

What went wrong

C.J. Cron hasn’t exactly gotten off to the best start in a Rockies uniform. He went 1-for-8 with four strikeouts and an untimely error during the first two games of the series before resting on Thursday, and he’s hitting just .190 with a .286 slugging percentage through 25 plate appearances overall.

Cron has drawn some walks and two of his four hits have gone for extra bases, but he looked especially rough on Tuesday, flailing at pitches out of the zone and coming up empty in big spots with runners in scoring position.

What’s next

The Rockies head out on the road for the first time in 2021, facing the San Francisco Giants in a trio of day games starting Friday. Austin Gomber will try to rebound from his disastrous Rockies debut in the series opener, and Chi Chi Gonzalez will make his first start of the season on Saturday.