It started a little late and ended up being cut short but Jon Gray turned in another brilliant start Wednesday night. Gray threw five scoreless innings as the Albuquerque Isotopes beat the visiting Salt Lake Bees 4-1 in a rain-delayed contest.
Gray (6-6) allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out eight batters, all swinging. He threw 50 of 70 pitches for strikes before he was pulled due to the late start time of the game, which was delayed 1 hour, 42 minutes.
“Tonight was the best Jonathan Gray has pitched all year,” manager Glenallen Hill said. “He worked on a lot of things — commitment to each pitch and focus.
“When he went down to warm up, he threw the best warm-up he’s thrown all year, too. The ball was coming out of his hand very easily. All of his pitches were working.”
Gray did some of his pregame routine twice, though he only threw in the bullpen once. He agreed it was his best start of the year.
“Yeah, I’d say so, I think it was my most aggressive start of the year,” Gray said. “I think everything tonight was aggressive. I was really making it tough on them.”
Pitch efficiency was something Gray improved upon compared to his last two starts. He threw 93 pitches in five innings on July 24 and 84 in five innings on July 19.
“I feel like it was, I didn’t have any kind of thoughts in my head that I should make this pitch be outside the zone,” Gray said. “Everything was like I’m going right at you.
“I think that’s what helped. Even the pitch count, 70 through five is better than I’ve been lately. I feel like it’s a pretty good mindset to take in.”
Salt Lake (41-64) put two on with one out in the first, only for Gray to strike out Kaleb Cowart and get Grant Green to line out to first baseman Kyle Parker. Gary Brown led off the third with a triple but Gray shook that off and picked up two strikeouts and a groundout to second base.
“Just coming out the bullpen, I felt really explosive,” Gray said. “I just watched my fastball take off in warmups. I was like, ‘OK, this is going to be one of those days where it will be tough to hit this.’ So I just went in there and challenged them every time.”
While Gray was doing his part, Albuquerque (48-57) was getting just enough offense, mostly from one player. Tim Wheeler had a two-run single in the second and an RBI single in the sixth.
The Bees got a run back as Grant Green led off the seventh with a triple and scored on Roger Kieschnick’s sacrifice fly. The Isotopes countered that when Trevor Story led off their half of the seventh with a towering home run to left-center.
Scott Oberg gave up two hits to start the ninth but then struck out the side to earn his second save. That also gave Gray his sixth win of the season.
“That was probably one of the more fun outings of the year,” Gray said. “That’s what I like to have.”
Albuquerque will continue the series with Salt Lake on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. The Isotopes will send left-hander Rudy Owens (0-2, 3.04 ERA) to the mound against Bees southpaw Jo-Jo Reyes (2-2, 5.71).
Around the Lab: First baseman Wilin Rosario joined the Isotopes before the game. He was optioned by the Rockies on Tuesday. … Infielder Cristhian Adames was optioned Wednesday and should join Albuquerque shortly along with right-handed reliever Miguel Castro, who was acquired in the Troy Tulowitzki trade with the Blue Jays.