Gray struck out a career-high 12 -- one more than last time he pitched at Petco, on May 2 -- in seven innings. Gray fanned the first five hitters, tying a Rockies record previously set in the expansion year of 1993 by Bruce Ruffin against the Astros on June 13, 1993, at old Mile High Stadium.
But most importantly, he gave the Rockies sunshine at a dark time.
"That's what I want -- for the guys behind me to know they've got a good shot to win," Gray said.
The Rockies entered Sunday trying to avert being swept by a Padres team that blew a 10-run lead against the Mariners on Thursday. Friday night's 4-0 Rockies loss to the Padres featured third baseman Nolan Arenado caught by television cameras blowing his top in the dugout.
Gray, 24, has won his last three starts -- significant because they've come during a 4-14 stretch during which the Rockies have given up 10 or more runs five times.
Everything is better when Gray pitches. On May 26 at Boston, the Rockies hit three two-run homers and won, 8-2. At home Tuesday, they tied a club record with seven home runs and beat the Reds, 17-4. Sunday night, Carlos Gonzalez hit two two-run homers and Arenado hit his 18th homer of the season on a three-hit night as the Rockies lashed 10 hits.
"When we're standing out there on defense for a long time, watching them score runs, it's hard for us to be scoring runs," said leadoff man Charlie Blackmon, who went 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs. "To his credit, he's been very aggressive, right out of the gate, and given us opportunities to get in and swing the bat."
Gray gave up five hits, including Wil Myers' double and Myers' 10th homer of the season, a solo shot in the sixth, and walked just one.
"The curveball and changeup were also really on tonight -- I threw them well for strikes, and got some bad swings," Gray said.
Padres catcher Derek Norris said, "It was really hard to dial in on one pitch."
Gray's strikeouts were two shy of the club record, 14 by Darryl Kile against the Expos on Aug. 20, 1998, and the most since Ubaldo Jimenez (13) and Jhoulys Chacin (12) in 2010. It's been a long time since the Rockies had a pitcher that teammates knew could excel like that any time he started.
"Since Ubaldo Jimenez," said Gonzalez, who has been with the team since 2009. "Ubaldo had a great career with the Rockies. He was a hard-throwing guy, really fun to watch. He [Gray] is one of those guys that can be even better than [Jimenez]. He's just getting started."