Austin Gomber returned to the mound for the first time in more than a month yesterday at the big league level and it went pretty darn well. Not only did he lead the Rockies to a series split - a much-needed win going into a ten-game road trip - but he did so by only giving up three hits. Yes, they were all home runs, but solo home runs! The damage was minimal. Germán Márquez’s All-Star appearance allowed him to hog the Rockies pitching headlines, but Gomber’s return is an opportunity for us to look at just how good he’s been this year.
Though the expectations were always going to be unattainable for the major-league-ready component of the Nolan Arenado trade, Gomber’s career in Denver actually got off to a strong start. Four starts into the season, he had yet to give up more than three runs and had strung together three straight quality starts, the most recent of which came against the offensive juggernaut Houston Astros. He gave up two runs on two hits while striking out six across six innings.
Then came April 26th.
Gomber got the start against the San Francisco Giants, a team he’d held to just one hit and two runs 17 days prior in a 3-1 losing effort for the Rockies. Things got ugly fast. After striking out the leadoff batter, the Giants were hitting everything, plating four runs before Gomber could get out number two. The second inning was somehow worse, with Gomber giving up five more runs before Bud Black came out to get him. Through 1 ⅔ innings, Gomber gave up seven hits, nine runs, and four walks (oddly enough, none of the runs came on the long ball.) He may have kept the ball in the park, but his ERA ballooned from 3.38 to 6.65, completely obliterating any semblance of a good start.
He rebounded well enough to grab a quality start against the lowly Diamondbacks, only to go to St. Louis and get knocked around again, this time for five runs over five innings. After a brief dip down to 5.90, Gomber’s ERA was back in the sixes just like that. Adding insult to injury was Nolan Arenado, who had a two-for-four evening with a pair of hits and a run scored. Since then, Gomber has been on an absolute tear.
When he left the mound in St. Louis, he had an ERA of 6.35. After a dominant eight-inning scoreless performance against San Diego Padres on June 14th, at Coors Field no less, it was all the way down to 3.54. Despite only giving up two runs in the start that led to his IL stint and three yesterday, his ERA has actually crept back up—a testament to just how good he’s been.
Yesterday’s outing against the Mariners was the 14th time in 16 starts that Gomber allowed three or fewer runs. Other than the implosion against the Giants and the lackluster start against St. Louis, Gomber has been pitching like an ace. Better yet, and perhaps even more surprising, is the fact that he’s never even given up three runs at Coors Field. Gomber seems to have tapped into something that has eluded the rest of the baseball world at altitude—aside from Márquez.
To go six innings in your first start back from the IL is no small feat. To do it while tossing a quality start and giving up only one walk is that much more outstanding. Gomber’s due for a tough matchup against the Los Angeles Angels his next turn, but hey, he doesn’t seem phased by much this season.
While Austin Gomber will always be associated with Nolan Arenado, perhaps as fans we owe it to him to watch what narrative he paints for himself. With the way he’s pitching this year, he’s doing more than enough to become a fan favorite down the road and be another anchor in this strong starting rotation. Who’s to say he won’t be taking the mound in October when the Rockies hit their next competitive window? He certainly has the stuff to make that a reality.
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An update on the general trade rumblings for the Rockies that you maybe don’t want to hear.
If it comes down to this, losing Jon Gray is going to be a tough blow for the Rockies. That sentiment rings even stronger after the Gray Wolf’s last start where he tossed seven innings of two run baseball against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The sterling performance brought his season ERA down to 3.68 to go along with a 6-6 record and 87 strikeouts.
Unfortunately, he’s probably the second-most likely Rockie to be traded after Trevor Story (see below) and it seems like the Philadelphia Phillies would be a good fit. Their best pitcher in recent years, Aaron Nola, is struggling mightily this season and is just getting over a bout with covid. Zach Wheeler has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he alone can’t carry this team to the postseason for the first time in a decade. In what is an extremely winnable division, Jon Gray could be the difference between playing October baseball and watching from the couch. If this does come to be, let’s hope Gray’s performance this season has buoyed his value.
The award for the least surprising article title of the day goes to this article. It’s not exactly shocking that teams are inquiring about Story now that the All-Star break is in the rearview mirror. According to sources, there have been six to eight teams that have gotten in touch with the club. Even if the Rockies’ interim General Manager Bill Schmidt says the Rockies won’t necessarily trade Story if it isn’t a fair trade, you have to think his departure is sadly the best case scenario for the Rockies. The odds of him re-signing here are slim to none. The team has to make sure they’re at least getting something for the guy.
Props to Trevor for handling the whole situation like a professional and focusing on the task at hand for the time being.
“Obviously, I’m aware of the talk, but that’s all out of my control, so it doesn’t do me any good to think about that. I’m just concentrating on playing baseball and helping my teammates. I think I have done a pretty good job of not breathing a lot of life into it.”
If Story’s beautiful home run derby performance is one of his final moments in a Rockie uniform, it will have been a good send off.
On the farm
The Hartford Yard Goats were in good hands offensively last night, plating a run in seven of the nine innings they played. Unfortunately the pitching was not there as the Bowie Baysox trounced them for 20 runs of their own. Giving up four plus runs in four different innings is not a recipe for success generally. After the lopsided loss, the Yard Goats are now 21-46 on the season.
The Spokane Indians were quiet for the first five innings Wednesday night before busting out for six runs over the final four frames to defeat the Tri-City Dusy Devils. First baseman Michael Toglia got it started with a two-run shot in the sixth and the Indians never looked back. After surrendering a run in the first, his only of the evening, Mitchell Kilkenny dialed it in and went seven innings giving up just five hits and striking out five to help the Indians get their 31st win on the season.
The Fresno Grizzlies pieced together a solid game on all fronts last night: The offense scored in four of eight innings, starter Anderson Amarista surrendered just 5.1 just two runs in 5 1⁄3 innings, and the bullpen handled things the rest of the way allowing a single run over 3.2 frames. When eight of your nine starters get a hit, you’re usually in good shape. The Grizzlies are up to 47-21 this year and continue to pace the Rockies’ minor league teams.
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