Tweaks to slider gets Jon Gray 11 strikeouts as Rockies defeat Padres for first home series win of season
Jon Gray had at least one strikeout in every inning before being lifted for a pinch-hitter after 101 pitches. AP

DENVER — Jon Gray altered the grip on his slider and set his aim higher in the strike zone.

It added up to a big change in fortune.

The hard-throwing righty struck out 11 in six dominant innings and David Dahl lined a two-run triple, lifting the Colorado Rockies to a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time).

Gray (2-4) had pinpoint control in scattering three hits and walking one to break his three-game slide. He had at least one strikeout in every inning before being lifted for a pinch-hitter after throwing 101 pitches.

For this, he credits a tweak to his slider — he's using the index finger to create more spin — and a decision to own the top part of the zone. Gray was letting his fastball fly as his long, blond hair flew in every direction.

"I feel like Jon's best games, it looks like he's having a lot of fun," catcher Tony Wolters said. "I told him he's an aggressive assassin that has fun."

Reliever Bryan Shaw allowed a run in the seventh and Wade Davis another during a shaky ninth in a non-save situation. But Davis fanned Manuel Margot to end the game and help the Rockies take two of three from San Diego. It was their first home series win of the season.

This game turned into a strikeout-fest, though, with the teams fanning a combined 27 times.

Tyson Ross (2-2) allowed four runs in four innings and struck out seven as he dropped to 0-6 lifetime at Coors Field. He didn't have the same sort of stuff as his last start, when he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning at Arizona.

"Pitches were at a premium for him today," Padres manager Andy Green said. "Obviously after four that was enough. I think he did enough to keep us in the ball game. We just didn't do anything offensively."

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Dahl provided the big blow at the plate with a triple off the wall during a three-run third that gave Colorado an early 4-0 cushion. That was more than enough support for Gray, who's been struggling with his rhythm. He entered the game allowing 18 earned runs over his three-game skid.

He found his groove early, striking out Jose Pirela to start the game. Two batters later, a fan interfered with first baseman Ryan McMahon trying to catch Wil Myers' foul ball near the stands. Gray quickly regrouped after the fan got the souvenir and promptly struck out Myers.

Gray found himself in a one-out, two-on jam in the fourth. After Franchy Cordero struck out, Chase Headley flied out to end the threat.

"That was really good to see," manager Bud Black said. "He bent, but he didn't break. "

Gray's commanding performance follows on the heels of Kyle Freeland's outing a night earlier, when the lefty threw seven sizzling innings in an 8-0 win.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Padres: 3B Christian Villanueva was out of the starting lineup for a third straight game with hamstring tightness.

Rockies: Freeland remains sore after taking a liner off his left heel in Tuesday's win. "Hopefully he'll be ready for his next start," Black said. ... OF Carlos Gonzalez (strained right hamstring) began hitting in the cage.

SCOUTING EXPEDITION?

Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra is in Miami as he serves a four-game suspension for his role in a brawl against the Padres two weeks ago.

"He's scouting," Black said.

Actually, the Marlins are in Los Angeles playing the Dodgers.

"He has people there," Black said. "He's hitting in Miami."

WOLTERS DAY

Wolters drove in a run with a single and another on a sacrifice fly. He also threw out two runners at second.

"I love throwing guys out," Wolters said.

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GRAY MATTERS

Myers was impressed with Gray's location.

"Today was just one of those days that he was just on and locating his pitches well," said Myers, who had one of the three hits off Gray and a double in the ninth off Davis.

UP NEXT

Padres: After a day off, LHP Clayton Richard (1-2, 5.67 ERA) takes the mound Friday for a three-game series against the New York Mets, who will throw RHP Jacob deGrom (2-0, 2.53).

Rockies: Travel to Miami for a three-game series that starts Friday. LHP Tyler Anderson (1-0, 4.32) goes for the Rockies and RHP Jose Urena (0-3, 5.88) for the Marlins.

 

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