The Diamondbacks knocked the Colorado Rockies out of first place in the National League West when the teams met in Denver last week, and the clubs have gone in opposite directions since. The Rockies (47-34) bring a season-long eight-game losing streak into the first contest of the three-game series Friday, when they welcome right-hander Jon Gray back from the disabled list.
The Diamondbacks (50-30) have won six of nine since taking the final two games of the series in Colorado on June 21-22, scoring 26 runs in the two wins. But they are coming off a pair of home losses to the St. Louis Cardinals, knocking their Chase Field record to a still-lofty 30-12. The series loss to St. Louis was the first at home for the D-backs since losing 2 of 3 to the Rockies in the last week of April.
Both teams are chasing the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers (53-28) in a division that includes teams with three of the five best records in the majors. "Really excited," Arizona third baseman Jake Lamb said of the series. "It doesn't really matter how they've been playing. I know how good that lineup is and how good those arms are, even though they are young. It's going to be a challenge. Another big three games for this team."
D-backs starting pitcher Robbie Ray (8-3, 2.87 ERA)
Ray appears to be on track for his first All-Star appearance. He is 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his past seven starts, and he is fifth in the NL with 119 strikeouts.
He got the win over the Phillies last Saturday, giving up six hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings. And he seems to have overcome some early season difficulties at Chase Field, winning his last three home starts with a 1.37 ERA. He's struck out 28 while surrendering 12 hits in his last 19 2/3 innings at home.
Ray has made eight career starts vs. Colorado, fashioning a 2-2 record and 5.10 ERA. He took the loss against the Rockies on April 28 at Chase, giving up five hits and three runs in 6 2/3. Colorado's Charlie Blackmon, a left-handed hitter, has been a nemesis, going 12 for 23 (.517) with two home runs against him. Rockies shortstop Trevor Story has homered in each of the two games he's batted against Ray.
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Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray (0-0, 4.38 ERA)
The 25-year-old Gray, who was expected to the Rockies ace after going 10-10 last year, will be making his fourth start of the season and first since April 13, when he was placed on the disabled list with a stress fractuce in his left foot. The Rockies won all three of his starts, though he has no record to show for it.
Gray made three minor-league rehab starts and yielded only two earned runs in 13 1/3 innings, striking out 18.
Gray, who was 10-10 with 185 strikeouts in 168 innings in his breakout season last year, is 0-1 in two career appearances against the D-backs at Coors Field. He has never pitched at Chase Field.
Chris Owings is 4 for 6 against Gray.
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Colorado is 25-19 on the road despite losing three-game series at Dodger Stadium and San Francisco after falling in the final two games to Arizona. The Rockies have been outscored 66-23 on their current losing streak.
"It's rough sledding right now," Colorado manager Bud Black said when the streak reached eight with a loss to the Giants on Wednesday. "But the big body of work has been solid. Look where we are in a lot of categories both offensively and defensively, and with pitching. We're doing good things."
The Rockies continue to be led offensively by the 1-2-3 punch of Charlie Blackmon (16 home runs, 56 RBI, .314), Nolan Arenado (15, 61, .294) and Mark Reynolds (19, 60, .299), but Reynolds has the team's only home run over the first six games of their current road trip. Outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra are both on the disabled list, and Trevor Story is 4 for 28 with 12 strikeouts and no walks during the eight-game skid.
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Bigger things to come
After a day off Monday, the D-backs will play a three-game series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles before returning home for three games with Cincinnati to close out the pre-All-Star-break portion of their schedule.
"Two very good teams coming up here," Arizona left-hander Patrick Corbin said. "I wouldn't say it's do or die, but they are big games, and I know we are going to go out and give it our best. We are prepared for that."
Jake Lamb hit his 18th home run and Paul Goldschmidt hit his 19th in Thursday's loss, but the first seven games of this homestand have not yielded typical results for the D-backs' lineup. Brandon Drury and Gregor Blanco are each 2 for 20, and Goldschmidt is 3 for 22.