DENVER (The Sports Xchange) – Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss has called it the million dollar question.
Why do the Rockies play particularly well against very good teams only to stumble against the laggards?
The pattern unfolded again Monday night when starter Jon Gray continued his late-season revival and the Rockies began a nine-game homestand with an 8-1 rout of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Rockies are 23-20 since the All-Star break. In that stretch, they have won series against Baltimore, the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Washington (twice) and have been swept in three-game encounters by Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
“The main thing is we’re going to focus on what’s ahead of us,” Weiss said, “and not what’s already happened.”
Nick Hundley hit a two-run homer in the fourth on a 1-2 slider from Kenta Maeda (13-8). It was his third homer in six games and his 600th career hit. DJ LeMahieu had three RBIs, including a two-run double on an eight-pitch at-bat in a five-run seventh that put the Rockies ahead 5-0.
“That was a pivotal at-bat in that game,” Weiss said.
Nolan Arenado added an RBI double in the rally, and Gerardo Parra had a run-scoring single. Arenado’s hit gave him 33 RBIs in August, tying the team record for RBIs in that month set by Andres Galarraga in 1996. Parra’s hit was also the 1,000th of his career.
Gray (9-6) gave up four singles in six scoreless innings with three walks, two hit batters and eight strikeouts. He threw 111 pitches, four shy of his career high on July 17 in seven innings at Atlanta.
In his past two starts, Gray has allowed two runs and eight hits in 12 innings with six walks and 18 strikeouts. Gray had gone 0-2 with a 12.46 ERA in his three previous outings.
Gray has allowed 34 of his 72 runs in the first two innings — 17 in the first and 17 in the second. But he has found a way to avoid stumbling at the outset.
“I just like to kind of pretend I’m closing out the game in the first and then bring a little intensity and kind of cruise from there,” Gray said.
Gray got three strikeouts on sliders, his best put-away pitch. But he also notched strikeouts with his fastball and curveball and used those pitches more because of the speed variance and, hence, unpredictability they provide.
Gray only started throwing the latter pitch in spring training
“I didn’t think I’d be using it this much at this time,” Gray said. “It’s been a pitch that’s kind of there or not there, but now I feel I can make an adjustment and get back to it.”
Maeda’s five-game winning streak ended as he lost for the first time in seven starts since July 17. In two previous starts at Coors Field, Maeda was 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA (12 innings, 2 earned runs).
“Overall I thought I pitched pretty well,” Maeda said through a translator. “It was that one pitch which was a slider inside that was definitely a mistake pitch.”
Pinch hitter Andrew Toles tripled with one out in the ninth off Matt Carasiti, who has been scored upon in seven of his first nine career outings, and scored on pinch hitter Charlie Culberson’s ground out, enabling the Dodgers to avoid being the first team to be shut out at Coors Field by the Rockies since they beat San Diego 5-0 on Aug. 16, 2015.
NOTES: Los Angeles SS Corey Seager was hit on the back of his left wrist by a Chris Rusin pitch in the seventh inning but stayed in the game. X-rays were negative. Manager Dave Roberts said it had already been planned for Seager not to play Tuesday. … Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw (mild disc herniation), RHP Brandon McCarthy (right hip stiffness) and LHP Brett Anderson (left index finger blister) will participate in a simulated game on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. … Dodgers 3B Justin Turner was rested after playing six straight days and going one for his past 17 at-bats. …Dodgers RHP Kenta Maeda was recalled from the Rookie-level Arizona League Dodgers and RHP Brock Stewart was optioned to Double-A Tulsa. … Colorado 1B Gerardo Parra started his third straight game at the position, which he had never played professionally before Saturday. ..Rockies manager Walt Weiss said “it’s possible” that 1B Mark Reynolds (broken left hamate bone) can return this season. He last played Aug. 11. … Rockies RHP Tyler Chatwood (mid-back strain) allowed four hits and two unearned runs in 4 1/3 innings in a rehab start for Double-A Hartford at Richmond with one walk and three strikeouts. Chatwood threw 73 pitches, 40 strikes. … Colorado PH Stephen Cardullo, who spent the past four seasons in independent ball and turns 29 on Wednesday, singled in the eighth for his first major league hit.