Gray: A Hit at the Plate, A Miss On Mound

This will give you an idea of what kind of night Jon Gray had on Friday.

He had a double and a single. It's the first multi-hit game of his career, just the 11th game in which he had a base hit. He even had a double, the first of his career.

Unfortunately, Gray isn't in the big leagues to hit. He's in the big leagues to limit the hitting of the Rockies opposition. And that's been a challenge for him in the opening days of the 2018 season.

Oh, he did pitch seven shutout innings in San Diego in his second start of the season.

Other than that, however, it has been a struggle. And there is no simple answer to the 1-4 beginning to the season in which he has a 6.75 ERA. He has given up runs in each of the first six innings with the heavy damage coming early and late. 

There were two runs in the first before he even retired a batter, two more (unearned) in the fifth, and finally two more in the sixth, when he gave up a leadoff single to Addison Russell and ensuing triple to Jason Heyward, and then gave way to Bryan Shaw. 

"I'm really trying to wait for the nightmare to end," said Gray, whose has struggled throughout April in each of his three big-league seasons. "I feel like I am making strides, but the results are just not there. It's not going to keep me from going out the next time and giving it everything I have,"

The question right now is exactly what does Gray have. The slider that has been a staple of his assortment isn't sliding the way it should.

"There's not anything that stands out," manager Bud Black said when asked about Gray's struggles. "He is healthy. His delivery looks fine. ... One thing (Friday) was he didn't throw many good sliders. Jon's fastball and slider command is what gets him strikeouts. It's rare that Jon pitches into the sixth inning and gets only one strikeout. It tells you he does not have the same action (on the pitch) he normally does."

But then is it April. In 63 big-league starts he has struck out two or fewer batters in only six starts, three of which have come in the month of April. He is 0-2 in those six starts -- the Rockies are 3-3 -- and he has a 10.09 ERA.

That's just not Jon Gray. With his fastball/slider combination and the evolving curveball, Gray is a strikeout pitcher. He has averaged 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings in his career. He has struck out 10 or more batters in a game eight times, including a franchise-record 16 against the Padres on Sept. 17. 2016. 

Gray has averaged a double-digit strikeout game every 7.8 starts with the Rockies, the best ratio of any pitcher who struck out 10 or more batters in a game at least twice for the Rockies. Pedo Astracio is second on the list at every 8.6 starts. There have been 20 Rockies pitchers strikeout 10 or more batters in a game, but only four who did it more than twice -- Gray, Astacio, Ubaldo Jimenez, who averaged one every 13.7 starts, and Jorge De La Rosa, every 33.3 starts.

As big a struggle as Gray had, Bryan Shaw struggled even more. He retired two batters, and not only was charged with four earned runs for the second time in 487 relief appearances, but he also allowed the runner Gray left on base to score. One of the most consistent relievers in the game, he has allowed as many as three runs in only 16 games in his career.





Tracy RingolsbyComment