Braves Flash Plenty of Leather, but Fall to Rockies

Hungry for ace status, Jon Gray (aka “Gray Wolf”) took a nice bite Sunday by striking out seven in six scoreless innings as the Rockies defeated the Braves, 3-0, to win a series at SunTrust Park.

Gray (6-3) dealt with runners in scoring position just twice; he forced a Matt Adams lineout to right to end the fourth, and with two on in the sixth, he coaxed consecutive flies to center from Nick Markakis and Kurt Suzuki.
Gray’s work was a key reason the Rockies, holding the second National League Wild Card spot, finished the road trip 3-3 and built momentum for a nine-game homestand that begins Monday. While the key runs came on Mark Reynolds’ two-run homer in the sixth, the offense went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.
“I knew it could change in a blink of an eye, but I was just thinking about the pitches, executing, seeing the out before I threw the ball, and it seemed to help,” Gray said. “It was a good test, because I know we’re going to have some really tough series coming up.”
Gray performed like what catcher Tony Wolters says he is: a “big-game pitcher.” Only a high pitch count (99), partly because of two walks and some lengthy at-bats, shortened Gray’s outing.
“At times it was good-old country Oklahoma hardball. I like that, and our guys can do that in the rotation,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He commanded the slider both backdoor and down and in to the lefties, down and away to the righties, and had effective use of the curveball. He and Tony worked great together.”
Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz (10-10) faced regular traffic on the basepaths with four hits and three walks, but yielded just one run in five innings. Foltynewicz labored through the start and ran up a high pitch count early.
“It was a battle today out there,” said Foltynewicz.
However, he was able to limit the damage thanks to good defense behind him. Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte and left fielder Adams made a couple nice plays to save additional runs. It allowed Foltynewicz to bounce back and finish his start by retiring the last seven batters he faced.
“His command wasn’t real good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He fought through it, never gave in and kept his wits about him. It could have been a lot worse. He made pitches when he had to and avoided the big inning. He gave us a chance to win.”
However, Reynolds, wearing “Sheriff” on his back — a Players Weekend nod to his nickname, “Sheriff of Swattingham” — homered for the 28th time this season and second time in the series in the sixth off A.J. Minter to account for two runs.
Jake McGee shut the door by pitching a perfect ninth to finish off the Rockies’ seventh shutout this season.
Wolters was the Rockies’ primary catcher before he was demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque when the team acquired veteran Jonathan Lucroy on July 30. The plan was for him to clean up fundamentals, as well as regain his hitting stroke. On Sunday, he showed that his throwing — always a strength — is still in good shape.
He ended the first inning by catching Freddie Freeman trying to swipe second to end a strikeout double play, and closed the fifth by catching Swanson. Wolters credited Gray, who has been working on controlling the running game.
“He did a great job mixing up his times and giving runners a harder time to get a good break. … You throw guys out because of the pitcher’s time,” Wolters said.
Bullpen pickup: Pat Neshek replaced Gray with no outs and a man on in the seventh. He would finish the frame by coaxing a double-play grounder from Matt Kemp, made possible by a nice backhand pickup from Trevor Story (aka “Joe”). Mike Dunn and McGee, who earned the save the last two games of the series, finished the Rockies’ first shutout in Atlanta since Sept. 4, 2012, at Turner Field.
Against the Braves, Gray is 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts, with 29 strikeouts and eight walks.
Lucas Sims will get the start when Atlanta begins a three-game series in Philadelphia on Monday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Sims has won his past two starts and completed at least five innings in his first five career starts.