DENVER — Jon Gray was hoping this would be the year things finally changed. But his start on Saturday ended like last season did: with him being pulled off the mound by a Rockies trainer.
Gray left the game with full-body cramping, a big sigh of relief for the Rockies, who can't afford another injury to their pitching staff. The team is already without starting pitcher Kyle Freeland, out for a month with shoulder sprain, and Scott Oberg, who had surgery to remove a blood clot from his right arm.
Gray started cramping during his last at-bat. They tried to give him electrolytes in between innings, but Gray wasn't able to push through. Despite the early exit, Gray looked sharp in his five innings of work. He allowed four hits, one run, one walk and seven strikeouts. The Rockies, though, fell to the Dodgers 6-5.
"That was crazy, I've never had that before," Gray said. "It's just annoying, I can't believe a cramp can stay around like that."
Gray said he usually doesn't eat a lot on days he pitches, but he did today. It was very protein-heavy, and he didn't eat a banana like he usually does. Gray drank some "special drinks" and said he felt better after the game.
"If I was pitching tomorrow, I'd probably eat like six bananas and a bottle of mustard," he said.
The last time Gray took the mound was Sept. 1, after shoulder inflammation forced him to end his season early. Gray wanted to come back stronger after fighting injuries for most of his career. He changed his regime, and the results were on display on Saturday.
"Jon really made some quality throws throughout the night," manager Bud Black said. "The four-pitch mix was probably the best I've seen him use four pitches."
He had extensive blood work done and started taking supplements and vitamins. He added in acupuncture, and stopped throwing as much in between starts, focusing on quantity over quality.
“Especially the last few years, I would be out there and just be so rattled about my stuff that I would throw forever,” Gray said prior to his start.
Gray also developed his own mental exercises, where he’ll run through different scenarios in his head.
“I know it sounds weird, but it really helps,” he said. “It makes you feel like you are out there already.”
Gray got some help early on Saturday from Raimel Tapia, who hit a home run in the third, and Ryan McMahon, who had an RBI double in the fourth. The Rockies led 2-0 after the fourth.
After giving up a hit in the first inning, Gray retired the next 10 batters he faced. He was running into trouble, allowing a run in the fifth before he was removed in the fifth inning. The Dodgers scored three in that inning, and added another in the sixth.
Josh Fuentes hit a two-run home run in the seventh to tie the game at 4-4. The Dodgers quickly responded, hitting an inside-the-park home run to take a 5-4 lead. Tapia hit the wall hard trying to catch it, and was on the ground for a few moments. He was removed from the game, and Black said Tapia suffered a little bit of whiplash, and that he was dazed. Tapia is not being evaluated for a concussion.
The Dodgers added another two runs in the eighth, which was enough to take the win.