Jon Gray has plenty of experience pitching at Chase Field in Phoenix, but the most disappointing memory is his start in the National League wild-card game in 2017.
Gray, considered the Colorado Rockies ace that year, got the nod in Colorado’s first playoff game in eight years and it didn’t go well. He allowed four runs and seven hits in just 1 1/3 innings and took the loss in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 11-8 win.
The right-hander has struggled at times since but he comes into his 16th career start against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night at Arizona on a high note. In two starts since returning from the injured list with a right flexor strain, Gray has allowed just two runs over 11 innings with 15 strikeouts.
That continued a string of strong starts by the Rockies rotation. In the just-completed seven-game homestand, Colorado starters had a 1.57 ERA to lead the team to a 6-1 mark in those games.
Now the challenge is to take it on the road where the Rockies are just 6-31 this season. Gray (5-6, 3.89 ERA) will be opposed by Arizona right-hander Merrill Kelly (5-7, 4.67) in the first of three games.
In his career against the Diamondbacks Gray is 5-6 with a 5.01 ERA, including 4-3 with a 3.60 ERA in seven starts at Chase Field. This season he is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in three starts against them, which includes six innings of no-hit ball in his second start of the season.
While the starting pitching has been solid all season Colorado hitters have struggled on the road. One who hasn’t struggled lately is catcher Elias Diaz, who had two walk-off hits against St. Louis over the weekend, including a three-run homer on Thursday night.
“He’s in a good spot,” manager Bud Black said of Diaz. “We’ve seen it over the last couple of weeks. It’s shown up with the long ball … He’s showing a really good, short stroke.”
Playing at Arizona is Colorado’s best chance to improve its road record. The Diamondbacks are in a two-month slump that has given them the worst record in baseball. Since an 8-4 win over the Rockies on May 2 that put Arizona two games over .500 the Diamondbacks have gone a shocking 8-50.
They lost 23 straight road games at one point and are on a three-game skid heading into Tuesday night. Kelly will try to stop it against a team he has struggled with since breaking into the majors in 2019. He is 1-3 with a 7.06 ERA in five career starts against Colorado.
Arizona’s representative in the All-Star Game in Denver next week is Eduardo Escobar, who was named to the NL squad on Sunday. It’s the first time he has been on the roster in his 11-year career.
Escobar leads the Diamondbacks with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs.
“I’m so happy. I’m working hard every year for this opportunity to go to the All-Star Game,” Escobar said Sunday. “Today is a special day for me, for my wife, for my family and my teammates. I’m going to represent Arizona, and that’s the most important thing.”
–Field Level Media