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Colorado Rockies game no. 7 thread: Merrill Kelly vs. Jon Gray

Gray looks to further his 2021 campaign with five strong innings under his belt—and a restocked bullpen behind him

The Rockies (2-4) are set to take on the Diamondbacks (2-4) in the Thursday afternoon rubber match of a three-game set. After a 13-inning Tuesday marathon, Colorado has replenished their bullpen thanks to eight shutout innings from Antonio Senzatela on Wednesday night.

Jon Gray takes the ball for the Rockies on the heels of a five-inning, seven-strikeout performance against the Dodgers last Saturday. Gray responded well after posting a 9.90 ERA over 10 innings in the Cactus League. It wasn’t the tough Dodger bats that slowed him in his last start, but a case of “full-body cramping” that ended his day before recording an out in the sixth. He left one runner on that inning and it would eventually score; that is currently the difference between his 1.80 ERA and a 0.00. Gray’s strikeout percentage is shattering all other Rockies starters in this young season, and it was largely his slider that gave hitters fits in his last start (57.1 CSW%).

Merrill Kelly threw 94 pitches last Friday, allowing three earned runs to San Diego over four innings in an eventual 2-4 loss. He is thrown into a tough schedule to start the season, following up his Padres outing with a game at Coors Field. Kelly will work a four-seam, cutter, curveball and changeup mix, and the curve was his leading weapon for whiffs and called strikes in his first start this year (26.7 CSW%). He did not pitch against the Rockies in 2020 but made two starts at Coors Field in 2019, allowing a combined 10 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to monitor his trust in that curveball at elevation and how Colorado bats will respond.

Kelly played high school, junior college and NCAA baseball in the state of Arizona. The Yavapai College Roughrider turned Arizona State Sun Devil was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2010, and signed with his hometown Diamondbacks as a free agent after the 2018 season. Yavapai’s ballpark (Prescott, Ariz.) sits one mile above sea level.

Colorado’s OPS frontrunner Chris Owings is not in the lineup after being pulled on Wednesday with right hamstring soreness. Bud Black will instead put Raimel Tapia, Sam Hilliard and Charlie Blackmon in the outfield from left to right, and Garrett Hampson at second base. It is unclear whether Owings will be available as a bench option.

The D-Backs’ offense currently holds the sixth-worst wRC+ in baseball, but four of their six games thus far have been against some tough San Diego starters. Colorado ranks 17 of 30, and their eight-run performance on Wednesday helped their small sample size. Arizona will look to build some offensive momentum before their home opener on Friday against the Reds—a team currently ranking first in wRC+.

Start Time: 1:10 p.m. MDT

TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain; MLB.TV

Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM; KNRV 1150 (Spanish)