Gray Has a Night He Hopes to Build On

For Jon Gray it was a matter of taking a deep breath.

Faster is not better.

And on Friday night there were signs that finally sunk in.

It's not just that he allowed one run in seven innings to gain the victory in the Rockies 11-3 victory against the Marlins at Coors Field. It's how he did it.

It's finding himself in a first-inning mess when Brian Anderson singled, and J.T. Realmuto doubled, putting Marlins on second and third with one out. And it's getting out of the mess by striking out Justin Bour swinging, and getting Starlin Castro on a line drive to center. 

"Keeping all the negative thoughts out of my mind," he said of how he handled the threat. "I focused on the positives on getting the job done."

Finally.

The season has been a disappointment for Gray, who seemingly made a break through a year ago. After trying to pitch through a broken foot suffered in the spring of 2017, he went on the disabled list, and then returned to the active roster in late June. He went 10-4 with a 3.58 ERA in his 17 starts after returning. He made a strong enough impression that he was given the start in the wild-card matchup with the Diamondbacks, and got the nod on Opening Day this year.

But then he allowed three or fewer in each of his final 13 regular starts.

Things had not gone as well this season. Three runs? In his first 15 starts this season he had a part in 10 innings in which the opposition scored three or more runs, including six of seven starts prior to Friday. That included a no-decision in a 13-12 loss at Texas last Sunday when he sailed into the sixth inning with a 5-1 lead, and gave up five runs without even getting an out in the sixth.

There was no repeat performance on Friday night when Gray allowed just one run -- a Derek Dietrich home run in the third -- and struck out 12 without issuing a walk.

Now, he did go back to wearing the white shoes he used to wear.

"When you have been struggling like I had, you have to change something up," he said. "I wore white shoes my whole life. I don't know why I didn't keep wearing them."

But this wasn't a cosmetic adjustment.

This was a mental adjustment.

It was a matter of taking a deep breath at times, and not getting in a hurry to throw the next pitch. It was a matter of not shaking off catcher Tom Murphy, but rather stepping off the mound and taking a deep breath.

"If he wanted a fastball in, instead of saying no, I'd step off and think about why that was the pitch that was being called," said Gray. "I'd look for the reason and commit to it. I wasn't going to let the negative crap in. I wanted to look at the positives."

And at the end of the night he had plenty of positives to look at.

He struck out 12, the 12th double-digit strike game of his career. He had a quality start for the first time in eight starts. He didn't walk a batter.

Most importantly? He earned a victory, just his third in his last eight starts.

"It is," said manager Bud Black, "a step in the right direction."

For Gray, a night like Friday is nice, but once is not enough for him nor the Rockies.