#MLBPlayers411 | Jon Gray
Playing in the Mile High City, pitcher Jon Gray has elevated his game down the stretch.
The 6-foot-4, right-handed pitcher is nearly unmistakable on the mound, with his long hair flowing from the back of his cap – a look the Rockies' marketing staff mimicked with a hair-and-hat combo promotional giveaway in June.
And the former University of Oklahoma star who was drafted No. 3 overall in 2013 is just as much of a standout in terms of performance. As the Rockies have closed in on a postseason berth, Gray has consistently delivered, going 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 11 starts since Aug. 5. He's allowed three or fewer runs in 13 straight starts, the latest on Wednesday in a win over the Marlins.
“The thing we have really never had in my time here is a stopper; somebody you can count on to every fifth day to pick you up,” teammate Nolan Arenado told The Denver Post on Wednesday. “I think we are seeing Jon grow into that this season.”
He's the leader of the one of the youngest starting pitching staffs in baseball – the average age of a Colorado starter is just over 24 years old. Gray made his first Opening Day start for Colorado this season and has the lowest ERA among the club's starters.
For the season, Gray is 10-4 with 112 strikeouts and a 3.67 ERA in 20 starts.
Pitching at Coors Field, a park many consider the most hitter-friendly in baseball, Gray has put together a 5-1 record with a 3.13 earned run average – the fifth-lowest single-season home ERA in Rockies' history (min. eight starts).
“I don't fear Coors Field at all,” Gray said during spring training. “I know I can go in there and give it everything I have and get the win.”
Gray, 25, uses a mix of four pitches, has a fastball that averages 96mph – the fourth-fastest among all starters in the majors – to pair with a slider that approaches near 90 mph as well. Add in his new-for-2017 pitch, a curveball, and Gray has averaged over one strikeout per inning.
“His fastball is a plus-pitch. His slider is a plus-pitch,” manager Bud Black told the Denver Post. “But when I saw his curveball for the first time in spring training, I said, ‘Whoa, this is legit.' It's a real weapon.”
Gray set a franchise rookie record and led all first-year pitchers in the majors with 185 strikeouts in 2016. For the year, he went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA in 29 starts and finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting.
In the batter's box, Gray has just 10 career hits, but one of them was the longest home run hit by a pitcher in the Statcast era, a 467-foot shot on July 5.
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