On the day No. 28 turned 28 years old, the Rockies got a home run from their birthday third baseman — and Colorado put together a wire-to-wire, 8-2 victory — for the third time in three days.
Some April momentum, at last, following the worst start in franchise history.
“Our starting pitching has been really good with (German) Marquez on Sunday, (Antonio) Senzatela on Monday and then Jon Gray today,” Nolan Arenado said. “We scored runs early, and you always feel a little more comfortable when you score a couple runs early.
“We’re playing good baseball right now. We just have to keep it up.”
The two-game sweep of San Diego, begun by Arenado’s dinger and enabled by Gray’s seven innings of one-run ball, sends Colorado into its seven-game homestand with a gust at its back. After Arenado’s two-run bomb in the opening frame — the first time Colorado has scored in the first inning this season — the bats kept on the gas the next couple of innings.
Doubles by Tony Wolters and Charlie Blackmon led to another run in the second, and then Raimel Tapia’s two-RBI triple in the third pushed the score to 5-0 off San Diego rookie Nick Margevicius.
“We sensed some momentum building,” manager Bud Black said. “That’s three days in a row that Nolan’s had some great swings, but I really like that we scored in the second, we scored in the third, we scored late … Overall we were on the attack against their pitching.”
All that early offensive noise, compounded by Trevor Story’s career-high three steals, gave Gray plenty of cushion to work with en route to his first win of the season. It was another outing where he showed the penchant for dominance that often eluded him during an inconsistent 2018 campaign, even though Black pointed out Gray “wasn’t even at the top of his game” with his offspeed.“I knew in the bullpen that I didn’t have my best stuff,” Gray admitted. “But there were times in the game when things got tough and I found a way to make a pitch, and that’s exactly what I want to see out of myself on days like these.”
Gray worked confidently and efficiently, holding the Padres hitless through the first four innings before Wil Meyers broke up the no-no with a solo shot to left to lead off the fifth. That put San Diego on the board at 5-1 and gave Gray sole possession of the National League record for consecutive games with a homer allowed at 16, but it didn’t sidetrack him from his sixth career quality start at Petco Park.
The right-hander pitched himself out of his most serious trouble in the sixth, inducing a Manny Machado flyout to end the frame with two runners aboard.
“Working out of that was big,” Gray said.
Meanwhile, the Rockies (6-12) continued to put pressure on the Padres’ bullpen as Garrett Hampson hit his first career home run, off Adam Warren in the seventh, to make it 6-1. Then in the ninth, Mark Reynolds’ sacrifice fly earned Colorado fans tacos for the first time in 2019 before Tapia’s grounder brought another run across to extend the lead to 8-1.
“We were pretty much in control from the beginning, and the last two games here have gone like that,” Hampson said.
Carlos Estevez, DJ Johnson and Seunghwan Oh closed out the game for Colorado, which hosts Bryce Harper and Philadelphia for a four-game series beginning Thursday.
“To be able to say you split a road trip, that’s not bad,” Arenado said. “We lost some tough games, and it feels good to know we took care of business these last three.”