DENVER -- With the Rockies' next step toward a postseason berth decided early -- a six-run second inning powered a 15-9 victory over the Marlins on Wednesday at Coors Field -- the afternoon became about right-hander Jon Gray making his case as the team's big-game pitcher.
"That's the way I see it when I'm out there," Gray said. "That's where I want to be. That's what I want to be for my teammates and this ballclub."
Gray had help. The Rockies batted around in the second and sixth innings, and they benefited from four RBIs each from Trevor Story and Ian Desmond, who had a three-run homer in the second.
Holding the second National League Wild Card -- which would mean a postseason showdown with the D-backs next Wednesday in Phoenix -- the Rockies' magic number to clinch the berth sits at 2 over the Brewers, who lost to the Reds on Wednesday, and 1 over the Cardinals, who lost to the Cubs.
Gray would figure to start the Wild Card Game, but he could also start either Sunday's regular-season finale if deemed necessary or a tiebreaker Monday if the season took such a turn. He ran his streak to 13 games giving up three or fewer runs, which is the second-longest in club history. Only a 14-game run by Ubaldo Jimenez, now with the Orioles, was longer.
At times Wednesday, Gray bordered on untouchable. Gray fanned Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' 57-homer slugger, three times.
"He threw really good," Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna said. "He's a good pitcher. Sometimes we don't feel comfortable. Sometimes we put everything together. But we battled. He had a good start."
Gray nearly escaped the fourth unscathed. With two on and one out, he forced a Derek Dietrich grounder, but Dietrich beat out the double play to gain an RBI. A.J. Ellis then homered for two runs. But Gray regrouped and blanked the Marlins for another two innings.
"In the dugout, man, he was bummed after Ellis hit him into the seats," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "I'm really proud of Jon, the way he bounced back."
Miami starter Adam Conley was unable to get out of the second inning for the second consecutive start, having given up seven runs in 1 2/3 innings Friday in Arizona. He allowed six runs on three hits and three walks in 1 1/3 innings -- the shortest outing of his career.
"He runs into a couple good teams," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Arizona's a good hitting ballclub. He didn't seem to fool anybody there. And these guys also. Walks a couple guys, a guy hits a homer, and he walks the next guy. He hasn't been very good in the last few, so it's probably the last [start] of the year. We'll put him in the 'pen and see if we get anything after that, let him get an inning in so he can walk off and feel good about it. We'll see what's happening, but obviously the ending wasn't very good for him."
The Marlins came alive in the final two innings, adding six runs on seven hits -- including five doubles -- against four Rockies relievers. Dee Gordon singled to lead off the eighth against Antonio Senzatela and went to third on a double off the right-field wall from Tyler Moore. Christian Yelich and Ozuna both knocked run-scoring grounders before the inning ended.
The Fish opened the ninth with four straight doubles against Jeff Hoffman, with Dietrich, Ellis, Miguel Rojas and Brian Anderson leading the late charge. Moore plated the fourth run of the inning with a single up the middle off Kyle Freeland before Pat Neshek came on to shut the door with a strikeout of Yelich, an infield single from Ozuna and a game-ending popup to first on the ninth batter of the inning.
"I play the game hard," Ozuna said of the late-inning rallies. "I come to the field and if I can get it, I get it. If not, tomorrow's another day."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Desi time: Desmond took some boos from the crowd at Coors when he couldn't handle a Rojas line drive and struggled at the plate in Monday night's loss to the Marlins. But he has quietly improved production over the past week and a half. His bat became loud in the second, after Conley walked Story and Mark Reynolds. Desmond sent his seventh homer this season, and second in the past six games, the opposite way over the right-field wall for a 3-0 lead. In the past nine games, Desmond is hitting .344 (11-for-32) with two homers, six RBIs, four walks and six strikeouts.
Do you really want that? Twice Wednesday, the Marlins intentionally walked Nolan Arenado to face Story, who spearheaded Tuesday's victory with a three-run shot in the first inning. In the fourth, after the Marlins had cut the difference to 6-3, Story delivered a two-run double off Junichi Tazawa, and he scored on Desmond's two-out single for a 9-3 advantage.
"Any win is really big right now. I mean, we've got to win every game we can. It was huge. It was just great to win the way we did and score all those runs. Just to score a lot of runs like that, it's a confidence booster." -- Arenado
"We get behind yesterday, we get behind today early, their guys made a little run there and they just kind of kept going. It didn't seem to matter who we got out there today, [the Rockies] just kept banging it up." -- Mattingly, on the inability to contain Colorado
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Center fielder Charlie Blackmon's eighth-inning RBI single brought his season total to 100, all but one from the leadoff position. His next RBI as a leadoff man would tie the Angels' Darin Erstad (2000) for the Major League record from that spot. Blackmon's three-hit day gave him 66 multi-hit games this season, which tied Dante Bichette (1998) for the club record.
After going 1-for-12 on the Rockies' last road trip and suffering a left shoulder injury on Saturday night that limited him to one pinch-hit appearance in the past two games, Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez has heated up. The past two games have been his sixth and seventh three-hit games this season; he has three such games this month.
The sale of the Marlins to the group led by Derek Jeter and venture capitalist Bruce Sherman was approved by the Major League Baseball owners unanimously via conference call about an hour before the game started Wednesday. Players and coaches hadn't had much chance to process the move, which is likely to become official when the sale closes Monday.
"I don't think it's been that big of an issue," Mattingly said. "Obviously it's going to be a new group, a new thought process. We'll see where that goes. We were assuming it was going to get official at some point, and then we'll have some type of direction, which way we want to go, but that just hasn't happened yet, so it's hard to kind of react to it."
"I don't know what kind of team they're going to build, a new team," Ozuna said. "I don't know what's going to happen next year to everyone who played here this year."
The Marlins won their second challenge in two days on plays involving the tag of a sliding runner at second base. With two outs, a man on third and six runs already in from a second-inning rally, Story attempted to steal second and was initially called safe after beating the throw to the base. The replay officials determined that Story lost contact with the bag while Gordon maintained contract on the tag. The play was overturned, and Story was ruled out to end the inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Marlins: The Marlins start a four-game series with the Braves on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET to determine second place in the National League East. Southpaw Dillon Peters makes his sixth big league start. He is 0-2 with a 6.31 ERA, with 18 runs yielded on 30 hits and 15 walks while striking out 23 over 25 2/3 innings. Peters has never faced Atlanta.
Rockies: Righty Chad Bettis (1-4, 5.72 ERA), whose lone win since his return from testicular cancer came at Los Angeles -- five innings, six hits, four runs (three earned) -- on Sept. 9, will face the Dodgers at Coors Field on Friday at 6:40 p.m. MST