Rockies’ Jon Gray gives up eight runs in 12-8 loss to Diamondbacks at home

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Pitching, Rockies manager Bud Black is fond of saying, sets the tone for a ball club.

Monday night at Coors Field, it would have behooved the Rockies to be tone-deaf.

The Arizona Diamondbacks battered starter Jon Gray for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings en route to a 12-8 win, marking the first time all season the Rockies (11-5) have dropped back-to-back games.

A number of Arizona’s hits were soft loopers into the shallow outfield or groundballs that found holes. Still manager Bud Black said Gray’s fastball command was not good and Gray did not appear crisp.

Gray, however, took issue with that characterization.

“I felt just as crisp as any other start this year,” he said. “Maybe this year I’m just not crisp.”

Said Black: “It wasn’t Jon’s night and things didn’t go his way. They found some holes on soft grounders, they found some outfield grass in front of our outfielders. (Kole) Calhoun hit the ball well to start the game with his opposite-field home run.

“But they hit some balls where we weren’t — basically. That’s part of the game, obviously. The fastball location for Jon wasn’t good tonight but I thought his stuff overall was fine.”

Colorado entered the game with a 2.84 team ERA, with opponents batting just .209 against its starters. But the Diamondbacks hammered out 18 hits and forced Colorado to use six pitchers.

Monday marked the first time since Sept. 22 at Dodger Stadium and the first time at home since Sept. 17 vs. the Mets that a Rockies starter has allowed more than three earned runs. The streak was halted at 21 consecutive games overall, 11 games at home.

The Rockies loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. But Matt Kemp grounded into a double play and Archie Bradley struck out David Dahl to end the game.

The Rockies’ three-run fourth, highlighted by consecutive, run-scoring, two-out singles by Blackmon, Arenado and Daniel Murphy cut Arizona’s lead to 8-6. Chris Owing’s solo home run to left off reliever Alex Young trimmed the lead to 8-7 in the fifth.

Blackmon, by the way, batted 4-for-5, extending his hitting streak to 14 games and he’s now hitting .484. During the streak, he’s hitting a sizzling .554.

“He’s in a zone you can’t dream up right now,” Arenado marveled. “It unbelievable just to watch.”

Arenado, who sat out Sunday’s game at Seattle because of a slump that left him batting .185, batted 4-for-4 with a double, a sacrifice fly and two RBIs, raising his average to .241. He said he felt much better at the plate.

“Today, thank God, was a great day, offensively, for me,” he said. “It would have felt a lot better if we had won. I hate sitting, and I hate sitting because I’m not playing well enough. But it was helpful for me to get away from it for a little bit.

“I just hit off a tee yesterday, just to try and stay ready, but that was about it. I kind of stayed away to kind of relax. I don’t like days off but there is definitely a need for them sometimes.”

Colorado’s chance for a potential winning rally was snuffed out in the seventh when Arizona scored three runs off right-hander Yency Almonte, with Nick Ahmed ripping a run-scoring single through shortstop Trevor Story, followed by Kole Calhoun’s two-run double. Had Story been able to handle Ahmed’s groundball and turn a double play, the game might have come out differently.

Gray’s struggles almost got lost in a game that took 3 hours, 43 minutes to complete, but that didn’t take the sting out of what was only the second poor performance by a Rockies starter this season. The other belonged to Chi Chi Gonzalez. In Gray’s 3 1/3 innings, the Diamondbacks sprayed 11 hits, including a leadoff homer by Calhoun on the game’s first pitch.

The 11 hits allowed tied his career-high (the last time was July 17, 2019, vs. San Francisco), and his eight runs given up were his most since July 14, 2017, at the New York Mets.

Gray’s ERA soared to 6.41, but that is not much of surprise considering how the Diamondbacks treat him at Coors Field. He’s winless in six career starts with a 7.80 ERA, although the team is 3-3. Gray disagreed with the idea that the D-Backs have him figured out.

“No, I don’t think that’s the issue at all,” he said. “It was just one of those days where everything works out for them.”

Jeff Hoffman (1 1/3 innings) and Daniel Bard (one inning) restored some order and didn’t allow a run as Colorado crept back into the game.

Arizona left-handed starter Robbie Ray didn’t fare much better than Gray, giving up six runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. Story tagged him with a long, solo homer to left in the first inning. It was Story’s sixth homer in 16 games.

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