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Colorado Rockies find winning formula in Jon Gray's season debut

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Clutch hitting, a strong bullpen performance and a promising start from their top prospect propelled the Rockies to a win over the Dodgers.

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I love it when a plan comes together.

The Colorado Rockies defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-5, on Friday night with a formula that has led to a lot of wins for past editions of the team.

Starting pitcher Jon Gray gave his team enough to keep them in the game, the bullpen was rock solid and the offense came through in the late innings.

Things got off to a rough start for Gray in the top of the first, as three of the first four Dodgers that came to the plate got extra-base hits, including home runs from Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez, giving Los Angeles a 3-0 lead.

"It felt a little funny at first," Gray said of making his first start of the season. "But after I decided I wasn't going to let it happen, I felt a lot better."

Gray settled in very nicely after his rough start, retiring Yasiel Puig and Yasmani Grandal to end the first and allowing just a walk and a single in the next three frames.

"It could've went the other way after that first inning, but he stayed the course, hung in there, didn't get flustered whatsoever and threw the ball really wall after that," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.

Gray did allow another pair of runs in the fifth on a two-run single by Gonzalez and left the game after five innings of work, allowing five runs, all earned, on seven hits with a pair of walks and 10 strikeouts, a career high.

Of Gray's 10 strikeouts, seven came on his slider, which sat in the upper 80s throughout the game.

"His slider was filthy," Weiss said.

Gray said he has always had confidence in his slider as a go-to pitch.

"I've always felt really good with that pitch," Gray said. "I've got the conviction I can throw it in any count, too."

Friday's outing was the first time Gray had pitched to catcher Tony Wolters, who helped his pitcher by picking off Seager in the third in addition to working well with Gray as a battery mate.

"Man, he does a great job." Gray said. "He's a really smart guy who understand a lot, understands me and how I work."

After Gray exited, the Rockies bullpen held the Dodgers offense in check, with Gonzalez Germen, Boone Logan, Chad Qualls and Jake McGee combined to pitch four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out four. The only Rockies reliever to throw more than 10 pitches in his outing was Germen, who threw 30 pitches in 1⅔ innings.

"Germen did an outstanding job giving us almost two (innings) there," Weiss said.

Offensively, the Rockies' big hit came in the eighth from Brandon Barnes, who broke a 5-5 tie with a triple that brought home Nolan Arenado and Mark Reynolds.

"I got a pitch where I was looking and didn't try to do too much," Barnes said.

Barnes' manager complimented him on the at bat in the eighth, as he battled back from an 0-2 count against Dodgers reliever Chris Hatcher to come through in the clutch.

"It was a tremendous at bat," Weiss said. "Then to stay on that ball and hit it where he did that's a huge at bat and I'm really happy for him."

Barnes entered the game in the seventh as a pinch runner for Ryan Raburn, who had reached base for the third time in the game with a single. He came around to score on a sacrifice fly by DJ LeMahieu.

"We kind of joke around and call each other RaBarnes," Barnes said of himself and Raburn. "We feed off of each other."

The Rockies scoring started in the second when Arenado scored on a Wolters fielder's choice but the big inning came in the fourth, which Arenado led off with a home run, cutting the Rockies' deficit to 3-2. After a Gerardo Parra single, Raburn gave the Rockies a 4-3 lead with a two-run home run, his third of the season.

The Rockies could have added more in the fifth, but Puig cut down Story trying to extend a double into a triple with a throw from right-center field that ended up in Justin Turner's glove on the fly.

"It reminded me of that Bo Jackson throw I saw years ago, when he threw out Harold Reynolds in the Kingdome," Weiss said.

Fortunately for the Rockies, Story's run in the fifth did not come into play as Colorado improved to 9-7 and to within a half game of Los Angeles for first place in the NL West.