Gray's second-half surge takes a step back

Gray's second-half surge takes a step back

DENVER -- Streaks of five starts without a loss and six straight quality starts ended on Sunday as the wheels came off Jon Gray's slider. And as his slider went, so went the Rockies' fortune in a 10-7 loss to the Marlins.

Gray was unable to complete the fourth inning, and he left having twice allowed more runs in an inning than he allowed over his last five starts combined.

"Nothing went right today," Gray said. "I didn't pitch at all. Didn't command anything. The slider wasn't there. I pretty much lost us the game, lost us the series.

Gray struggled from the start, allowing the first three batters he faced to score as part of a four-run first frame. He had traffic in the second after walking the pitcher to lead off the inning, put up a 1-2-3 third, then allowed four more runs in the fourth, getting the hook after serving up a two-run homer to Giancarlo Stanton.

Stanton's two-run big fly

"Location," manager Walt Weiss said of the key to Gray's struggles. "His slider was flat. His command wasn't real sharp. They got some timely hits, found some outfield grass. He didn't have his 'A' game, but he competed."

Gray's eight runs allowed were second only to his career-high nine runs in 3 1/3 innings in St. Louis on May 19. The game was in stark contrast to his dominance since the All-Star break, as he went 3-0 with a league-best 0.69 ERA in four starts going into Sunday.

"It's been a battle the last couple weeks, actually," Gray said. "I've just been more fortunate those times. I was able to use my slider. It was there the whole first half. It was my best pitch, the one I liked to use to get outs with. When you don't have that, it makes things a lot harder."

With much of the day's focus on Ichiro Suzuki's pursuit of his 3,000th hit, Gray found success in his matchups against the future Hall of Famer. He struck Ichiro out swinging in the first inning, then got him to ground out on a comebacker to the mound in the third, making him the only Marlins starter not to reach base against Gray and the only position player not to get a hit off him.

Ichiro strikes out

"What I really wanted to do was throw the ball inside," Gray said of his approach with Ichiro. "He's really good at slapping the ball the other way. I really wanted to throw the fastball in there and then back-door some breaking balls, which I couldn't. That was my plan."

Ichiro connected for No. 3,000 in the seventh inning, a triple off reliever Chris Rusin.

Gray had been undefeated at Coors Field this season, posting a 5-0 record and a 3.83 ERA in nine starts.

"I knew there'd be a bump in the road eventually," Gray said. "I didn't think I would give up an eight-spot and lose us the game. That can't happen. We gotta get back on track."

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