Rangers’ Jon Gray beats Rockies with strong start vs. former team

The Gray Wolf had a howling good time deep in the heart of Texas. Kyle Freeland, not so much. And so the anticipated matchup between the former Rockies teammates was a flop.

Rangers right-hander Jon Gray, known as the “Gray Wolf” during his time with Colorado from 2015-21, dominated the Rockies for five innings Saturday afternoon at Globe Life Field in the Rangers’ 11-5 win.

Freeland departed after just two innings, having given up eight runs (five earned) on nine hits. The lefty’s line resembled his other poor performance this season against the Pirates on April 17 at Coors Field when he was battered for nine runs (seven earned) on eight hits over 2 2/3 innings.

“I didn’t have command of where I wanted the ball to go today,” Freeland told reporters in Texas. “I wish I was able to find my (stuff) after the first inning but I just couldn’t. It wasn’t the pitch calling or any of that, I simply could not execute and command the baseball.”

Gray, who signed a four-year, $56 million free-agent contract prior to the 2022 season, is in the midst of one of the best stretches of his career. Over this last three starts, he’s 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA. Gray blanked the Rockies for the first 3 1/3 innings, extending his scoreless streak to 17 1/3 innings.

In the first inning, the Rockies seemed poised to tee off on him. Charlie Blackmon led off with a double, the 297th of his career, tying him with Larry Walker for the second-most in franchise history. Jurickson Profar followed up with a single and Kris Bryant walked to load the bases. Gray got Elias Diaz to fly out to shallow right, struck out Ryan McMahon and saw Randal Grichuk line out to left.

“That (inning) potentially changes the whole game,” manager Bud Black said.

But as so often happens to Colorado on the road, the big hit was missing.

Given a reprieve, Gray found his stride, giving up just three hits over his next four innings and finishing with six strikeouts. Colorado eked out its only run off Gray in the fourth, combining singles by McMahon, Mike Moustakas and Harold Castro.

“I try to see those moments as opportunities, rather than a bad situation,” Gray told the Dallas Morning News about his great escape in the first inning. “If someone hits a leadoff triple, ‘oh great’. But if I do something great right here, it’s going to be awesome to get out of this situation. It’s something to chase.

“Getting through that definitely gave me a little lift.”

Freeland entered the game on a roll of his own, posting a 2.70 ERA over his past five starts. But the Rangers hit him hard early and often, scoring four runs in the first and four more in the second.

Marcus Semien led off with a double and scored on Nathaniel Lowe’s infield single when Freeland failed to cover first base and that opened the gates.

“The whole world changes,” Black said. “It’s 1-0, two outs and nobody on base. In a way, Kyle shot himself in the foot.”

And from that point on, every ball the Rangers hit off Freeland seemed to find a hole. Freeland saw his ERA rise from 3.16 to 3.88.

“They hit the ball on the nose, at times, and the balls found holes,” Black said.

Colorado scored three runs in the eighth against the Rangers’ shaky bullpen, getting a sacrifice fly by Grichuk, an RBI single by Moustakas and a run-scoring double by Castro. Speedy rookie Brenton Doyle beat out an infield single to drive in another run in the ninth.

Colorado came to Texas on a nice run, having won 11 of its last 16 games. But the Rangers, who entered the game scoring a big-league-best 6.2 runs per game,  hammered the Rockies in the first two games of the series, outscoring them 18-7.

Pitching Matchup

Rockies RHP Connor Seabold (1-0, 5.14 ERA) at Rangers LHP Andrew Heaney (2-3, 4.71)

12:35 p.m. Sunday, Globe Life Field


Radio: 850 AM/94.1 FM

The Rockies received poor starts from Karl Kauffmann and Kyle Freeland in the first two games of the series, so it’s left to Seabold to play the stopper. He’ll be making his fourth start and the Rockies won each of his previous three. Seabold did not factor into the Rockies’ 9-8 win over the Reds at Coors Field last Monday when he allowed six runs (four earned) on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings. The right-hander has never faced the Rangers.

Heaney has made a quality start in four of his last five games. He dominated Oakland in his last outing, allowing one earned run on four hits and two walks over six innings. Heaney is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in five games (four starts) vs. Colorado. He’s 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two games (one start) when facing the Rockies in Texas.

Pitching probables

Monday: Marlins RHP Edward Cabrera (3-3, 5.13) at Rockies RHP Chase Anderson (0-0, 0-0), 6:40 p.m., ATTRM

Tuesday: Marlins RHP Eury Perez (1-0, 2.79) at Rockies LHP Austin Gomber (3-4, 6.70), 6:40 p.m., ATTRM

Wednesday: Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara (1-5, 5.05) at Rockies TBD, 6:40 p.m., ATTRM

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