Rangers’ Jon Gray beats Rockies with strong start against old team

The Gray Wolf had a great time howling in the heart of Texas. Kyle Freeland, not so much. And so the expected game between the former Rockies teammates was a flop.

Rangers right-hander Jon Gray, nicknamed the “Gray Wolf” during his stint with Colorado from 2015-2021, topped the Rockies for five innings Saturday afternoon at Globe Life Field in the Rangers’ 11-5 victory.

Freeland left after just two innings, having allowed eight runs (five earned) on nine hits. The left-hander’s line looked like his other poor performance this season against the Pirates on April 17 at Coors Field when he was beaten for nine runs (seven earned) on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings.

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

In the first inning, the Rockies looked ready to pounce on him. Charlie Blackmon started with a brace, the 297th of his career, tying him with Larry Walker for the second most in franchise history. Jurickson Profar followed it up with a single and Kris Bryant walked to charge the bases. Gray flew Elias Diaz to the shallow right, pulled out Ryan McMahon and saw Randal Grichuk line out on the left.

With a reprieve, Gray found his groove, allowing just three hits over his next four innings and finishing with six strikeouts. Colorado had its only run against Gray in the fourth, combining singles from McMahon, Mike Moustakas and Harold Castro.

Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland (21) stands on the mound with pitching coach Darryl Scott and catcher Elias Diaz (35) as shortstop Ezequiel Tovar (14) looks on during in the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, May 20, 2023. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Freeland entered the game on a personal streak, posting a 2.70 ERA in his last five starts. But Rangers hit it hard, early and often, scoring four in the first and four more in the second.

Marcus Semien started with a brace and scored on Nathaniel Lowe’s single. From that point on, every ball Rangers hit Freeland seemed to find a hole in. Freeland saw his ERA drop from 3.16 to 3.88.

Colorado scored three in the eighth against the shaky Rangers bullpen, earning a sacrifice fly from Grichuk, an RBI single from Moustakas and a brace from Castro. Speedy rookie Brenton Doyle beat a single infield to drive in another run at ninth.

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

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