DENVER — Every moment is a learning opportunity for Lucas Gilbreath.
That includes a situation like Saturday night, when he entered the game in the fifth inning against the best team in baseball. He struck out the Giants’ LaMonte Wade Jr. to get out of the inning, then allowed just one hit in the sixth, not allowing the Giants to score.
“I think there’s an element of being comfortable and confident,” Gilbreath said. “I’m learning more about the game, learning more about hitters and learning to trust my stuff.”
Gilbreath, who until this year had never pitched above High-A, has quietly become one of the Rockies most consistent relievers. He has a 3.66 ERA, and he pitched 16 scoreless innings in a row before his streak was snapped by the Dodgers earlier this week. That day was a crucial lesson for the young reliever. And Saturday night was the same, as he stores information away for when he faces these same hitters again, when perhaps those games actually count.
When that day will come is too early to know. Saturday was still all about the Giants, who beat the Rockies 7-2 to extend their lead over the Dodgers in the National League West to two games with just over a week left to play.
Brandon Belt hit two home runs, including a three-run homer in the fifth that ended Jon Gray’s night. Belt’s second home run was the Giants 236th for the season, a franchise record. This loss also means Gray will not reach 10 wins this season for the first time in a full season, one of his main goals this year. He' snow pitched five or fewer innings in seven of his last nine starts.
"It's a little bit of an issue, for sure," manager Bud Black said. "The simple answer is that there are some mistakes in there that have cost him."
But for Gilbreath, Gray’s exit in the fifth provided another chance to prove himself. And there’s no tougher challenge right now than the Giants.
Gilbreath is very analytical, and relishes in studying scouting reports. He was inconsistent earlier in the season, thinking too much and not focusing on attacking. Now, his fastball, splitter and slider have all consistently been in the zone.
"It's what you want to see form the young guys, you want to see the guys come in here and use what they've got that has gotten them here," Gray said. "Gilly isn't afraid to pitch inside."
Gilbreath’s fellow rookie Jordan Sheffield didn’t have the same success on Saturday, and the offense couldn’t produce any runs after a two-run first inning. Sheffield, recently back from a shoulder strain that sidelined him for half of the season, made it just a third of an inning. He was credited for three earned runs.