As the Colorado Rockies' rotation continues to search for consistency, top pitching prospect Jon Gray is becoming more difficult to ignore with every start.
Gray struck out nine batters in six innings while allowing a pair of earned runs on seven hits and two walks in Triple-A Albuquerque's 6-5 loss to Tacoma on Sunday. The 23-year-old right-hander threw 76 strikes against just 29 balls and induced six ground outs.
Those are good numbers, but what was perhaps even better is the way Gray responded to adversity in his final inning.
After giving up a solo home run to Patrick Kivlehan with one out in the sixth, Gray bounced back to strike out the next two hitters on high-90s fastballs up in the zone. That could be the type of further development Rockies manager Walt Weiss alluded to when talking about Gray on MLB Network Radio last week.
Unfortunately for Gray and the Isotopes, the bullpen was unable to hold up its end of the deal. Rafael Betancourt, who is working his way back from vertigo issues, gave up a game-tying, two-run homer in the seventh inning. That was followed by Ken Roberts -- also rehabbing from an injury -- surrendering a go-ahead solo shot in the eighth.
Dustin Garneau led the Isotopes' offense with a home run, a double and three runs batted in. Cristhian Adames, Kyle Parker and Angelys Nina also had two hits apiece.
Double-A New Britain: L 9-1, L 3-1 (38-31)
Pat Valaika, Jeremy Barfield and Jayson Langfels each finished Game 1 with two hits but that wasn't nearly enough to overcome a rough outing from Rock Cats pitchers. Brett Marshall gave up five earned runs in 3⅔ innings and Tyler Ybarra followed by allowing three runners to score in just 1⅔ frames.
New Britain didn't do much in Game 2, either, finishing with just a run on six hits -- one of which came off the bat of Ryan Arrowood, who made a rare start and picked up an even rarer at-bat. Perhaps he should hit more; Arrowood is now 5-for-11 at the plate during his professional career.
High-A Modesto: L 8-6 (33-37)
Rosell Herrera hit a game-tying, inside-the-park grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning but the Nuts were unable to take advantage. Jordan Patterson and Correlle Prime led Modesto's offense with two hits apiece. Konner Wade allowed five runs on seven hits in six innings.
Low-A Asheville: W 3-2 (32-38)
Helmis Rodriguez had a rough outing, walking seven batters in 4⅓ innings. He allowed only two runs, though, which allowed the Tourists to scrape up enough offense to win. Josh Fuentes and Wes Rogers had two hits apiece. Shane Hoelscher went 1-for-3 with a couple of stolen bases.
Short Season-A Boise: L 10-1 (2-2)
Hamlet Marte doubled twice and drove in a run, basically accounting for all of the Hawks' offense. Tyler Matzek made his second appearance since returning to action and struck out a couple of batters -- and allowed two hits and a walk -- in an inning of work.
Rookie Grand Junction: L 15-5 (3-1)
Parker French did not have a good pro debut. The Rockies' fifth-round pick allowed seven runs on eight hits in 2⅓ innings. At least he didn't issue a walk! On the flip side, Stephen Wear had a memorable minor league debut, homering in his first professional at-bat as part of a performance in which he went 2-for-2 with a walk.