Rockies’ Gray hopes to make himself at home vs. Mariners (Jul 14, 2018)

DENVER — After being optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque and making two starts there, Jon Gray will return to the Colorado Rockies‘ rotation on Saturday and face the Seattle Mariners.

Gray (7-7, 5.77 ERA) will be opposed by left-hander Wade LeBlanc (5-0, 3.39), who faced the Rockies in his last start Sunday and came away with the victory. Gray made 17 starts for the Rockies, the last on June 28, before he was optioned two days later.

Gray was the Rockies’ starter on Opening Day last year and their starter in the wild-card game at Arizona.

This season, Gray has been an enigma. In the seven games he has won, Gray’s ERA is 1.80; in his seven losses, it’s 9.35. He has three no-decisions and a 10.22 ERA in those games.

Because of two recent off days, the Rockies were able to go with four starters on two turns through the rotation with Saturday being the first time they need a fifth starter.

Chad Bettis is still on the 10-day disabled list recovering from a blister on his right middle finger and unable to be reinstated Saturday, so the Rockies are turning to Gray. He will be pitching on five days’ rest after going 1-0 3.38 in two starts for Albuquerque. He had four walks, all in his second start, which lasted 4 2/3 innings, and 13 strikeouts in the 10 2/3 innings he logged for Albuquerque.

“I just tried to hit the reset button,” Gray said, “and throw the ball natually and make everything as simple as possible. I quieted down a lot of things.”

Gray has been victimized by the inablity to snuff out rallies and avoid big innings. To that end, he said with Albuquerque, “I wanted to work more out of the stretch in my (bullpen sessions)- probably 75-80 percent of the time. Because whenever I’ve had the most trouble, that’s when guys are in position at a stressful time.”

Asked whether it was hard to be sent down and a blow to his ego, Gray said, “It is because, I mean, you think you’re better, you know? It was something I kind of knew I needed.”

Gray is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERAin one start against the Mariners. LeBlanc is 3-3 with a 6.46 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) against the Rockies.

Last Sunday at Seattle, LeBlanc allowed four runs and five hits, including three homers, in six innings, claiming the victory in the Mariners’ 6-4 win that prevented them from being swept in a three-game series.

The Mariners are 10-3 in starts by LeBlanc, 33, who has yet to lose a decision in any home outing. He is with his seventh team, left-handed and doesn’t throw hard, reasons why Mariners manager Scott Servais, said, “He’s the reincarnation of Jamey Moyer. That’s what I like to joke about in Seattle.

“He doesn’t blow you away with the fastball velocity. He’s always been a fastball-changeup guy. This year, he’s really added the cutter, the slider to his repertoire, and is using it to both sides of the plate. So he’s got a little bit of a middle (velocity) pitch, so to speak.

“Sometimes a middle pitch can get you in trouble, but he’s really used it to is benefit. Back-dooring the cutter, running the cutter in, keeping right-handed hitters honest with it, and it’s worked out really well for him. And he’s got a lot of confidence. He continues to make pitches. He doesn’t give in. He just keeps grinding away, and we play very good defense behind him.”