Gray proves too much for Padres again

Gray proves too much for Padres again

SAN DIEGO -- Rockies right-hander Jon Gray didn't need to say or hear anything. Settling the team in times of trouble is just what he does.

Gray used mostly his fastball, but mixed in judicious breaking balls, en route to eight strikeouts in six innings of the Rockies' 4-1 victory over the Padres at Petco Park on Friday night.

The victory ended a losing streak at four games and gave the Rockies a 1 1/2-game lead over the Cardinals and a two-game lead over the Brewers in the race for the second and final National League Wild Card spot.

"Guys know me," Gray said. "I'm not so much a talkative guy. I can do more by example."

Gray's example is fast becoming the standard. The victory gave him 12 straight games of three or fewer earned runs, which tied Ubaldo Jimenez's run from July 10 to Sept. 7, 2009, for second-longest in club history. Jimenez, now with the Orioles, holds the club record of 14 straight games, set at the beginning of 2010.

Black on Arenado, Gray

Additionally, in his last four road starts, Gray is 4-0 with a 1.44 ERA and 28 strikeouts against five walks. In his last six overall starts, he has a 1.80 ERA, 28 hits, 41 strikeouts and nine walks.

"The consistency factor is there," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "When you talk about a guy coming into his own, that's one of the things you look at. He hasn't really wavered."

When Gray faced the Padres at home on Sunday, he fanned seven in five scoreless innings. Only a lengthy rain delay forced him out of a game the Rockies eventually lost. This time, the skies in San Diego were beautiful.

Gray and catcher Jonathan Lucroy stayed mostly with Gray's fastball, which he manipulated from 92 to 99 mph. He couldn't place the fastball on his glove side (outside to right-handers), so he mixed in his slider and broke out a curveball -- a pitch that he pocketed in his last start against the Padres.

"It's unfortunate the way the game played out, squaring off against Jon Gray in consecutive games," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We've had a very hard time hitting him. You look at the last two months he's thrown, we're not the only team that's had a hard time hitting him."

Gray yielded a two-out triple to Manuel Margot in the third but didn't let it bother him.

"It was just a bad pitch," Gray said. "I don't know if I can throw another bad one that good."

The Padres pushed across a run in the fifth and forced Gray to use 100 pitches by the end of the sixth. Black noted that controlling the pitch count is Gray's next challenge on what seems a fast rise to becoming one of the game's premiere pitchers. It wasn't until the fifth that Nolan Arenado's leadoff home run ended a 23-inning scoreless streak, but Gray figured he would hold the Padres until the bats ignited.

"I knew if I took care of everything, kept the same mindset, everything would work out the way it's supposed to," he said.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.