Gray's first start effective, but not pretty

Rockies righty strikes out 10, keeps club in game

Gray's first start effective, but not pretty

DENVER -- Jon Gray's season debut in the Rockies' 7-5 win over the Dodgers at Coors Field on Friday night had a little bit of everything that characterizes Colorado baseball at its best.

There was power on the pitcher's mound thanks to a dominating slider and a career-high strikeout total.

There was power at the plate in a quartet of long balls that pushed a tight game into double-digit scoring.

There was sick fielding that spurred ongoing debates and re-rankings of the best outfield assists of all time.

And there was a starting pitcher glowing with elation despite suffering through the kind of adversity that sends lesser men sulking to the showers -- a rookie right-hander claiming success despite seeing his ERA hit 9.00 in his first game on the hill this season -- a game he technically didn't factor in, in terms of the decision.

"That's why we talk about 'from the neck up' with our pitchers," manager Walt Weiss said of the elusive ingredient necessary in the toolbox of a Rockies starter. "You've got to be a tough guy to pitch here. I thought Jonny showed that tonight."

Gray left with a line that was ugly beyond dispute. He pitched five innings and allowed five earned runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out 10. He was just the sixth Rockies rookie to notch 10 or more strikeouts in a game.

He turned the corner with the first five batters he faced, yielding a triple and two homers to Chase Utley, Corey Seager, and Adrian Gonzalez, respectively, while striking out two from the heart of the Dodgers order.

"It just came down to no choice," Gray said of the ability to regroup after the three-run first. "Stay out there and get rocked, or buckle down and keep the team in the game. I did my best to keep them in the game."

Gray turned it around before the inning ended, starting a stretch of nine straight batters faced without a hit and 12 of 13 retired while his teammates battled back and claimed the lead.

"I came in to the dugout, and [pitching coach Steve] Foster was saying, 'Keep us in the game -- we're going to score the runs back. Do your best to keep the guys in the game,'" Gray said. "I said, 'You know what? That's what's going to happen. They're going to have to fight to score some runs now.' Sure enough it [worked out]. Our offense is electric. "

He was nearly flawless from the middle of the first to the fifth, when a leadoff walk and two singles loaded the bases for Gonzalez who laced a two-out, two-run double to right to reclaim the lead.

"He did an outstanding job," said Weiss. "That game could've gotten sideways on him, but he settled back in. That's as good a slider I've seen from him. It was disappearing. It was real hard and sharp late. It's a nice in-game adjustment he made."

It may not have been "textbook," but Gray showcased all the ingredients for success at Coors Field.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.