Jon Gray was brilliant for seven innings but the Albuquerque Isotopes still lost 2-1 to the Omaha Storm Chasers on Sunday night. Reliever Jairo Diaz blew his fourth save in the ninth inning.
Gray, the Colorado Rockies’ No. 1 prospect, notched a season-high in innings pitched. He did not allow a run, just four hits and two walks while striking out five batters.
“Oh, man, it felt like it was really fast for some reason (but) it was the longest one this year,” Gray said. “I felt like I was in control the whole time. I threw the ball with intent.
“It kind of played out in my mind how each pitch was going to work. Almost every time it worked out that way. The slider was working really well, I only threw a couple of changeups. I kept them guessing a lot.”
Gray finished the month of May with a 2.78 ERA in six starts. That came after an April where he had a 10.70 ERA in four games (three starts).
“It’s just been building and I think a lot of it has to do with confidence from the last few (starts),” Gray said. “I’ve been more in control each time I’ve gone out.”
Gray lowered his season ERA to 5.40, though he did not factor in the decision and his record remained 2-5. Still, it was another positive step forward for the former first-round draft pick.
“That’s what’s expected of him,” manager Glenallen Hill said. “He has outings like that and he has outings that are going to be more dominant than that. He’s starting to figure some things out.
“He stayed aggressive the whole time. He threw with intent and commitment and he got some good results.”
The only serious threat Gray ever faced in the game was in the fourth inning after Paulo Orlando and Jose Martinez hit back-to-back singles. Gray then got Cheslor Cuthbert to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.
“This was really the first time I felt I was in complete control of the (entire) start,” Gray said. “I think that’s going to be something that I can build off of for the next few outings.”
The Isotopes picked up their only run in the fifth as rehabbing Rockies infielder Charlie Culberson, who started at shortstop, hit a leadoff double. He moved to third on Jose Rivera’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Roger Bernadina’s double to right-center.
Albuquerque’s 1-0 lead held until the ninth. After Rex Brothers tossed 1.1 scoreless innings, Diaz (1-4) came in for a two-out save.
The only problem is Diaz gave up three straight singles, with Cuthbert driving in the tying run. Diaz then walked Casey Kotchman to load the bases and rehabbing Royals catcher Erik Kratz hit a sacrifice fly to center the drove in the go-ahead run.
Matt McBride hit a leadoff double in the Isotopes’ half of the ninth, but Michael Mariot (1-1) struck out the next two batters. Zach Osborne then flew out to center to end the game.
Albuquerque and Omaha will finish their series Monday at 12:05 p.m. Left-hander John Lannan (2-1, 4.22 ERA) will start for the Isotopes against Storm Chasers lefty John Lamb (5-1, 3.32).
Around the Lab
Prior to the game, infielder Angelys Nina was placed on the disabled list due to a sprained left ankle. Osborne was promoted from High-A Modesto to take his place. … Osborne debuted late in the game as a defensive replacement for Culberson, who went 2-for-3 and made two outstanding defensive plays in the field at shortstop. It was Culberson’s first official game of the season after he was placed on the 60-day disabled list in March due to a bulging disc in his back.