DENVER — The Atlanta Braves have gone more than two years at Coors Field without walking off the field, exchanging high-fives and savoring a victory.
Indeed, the Colorado Rockies, who beat the Braves 7-3 in the opener of a four-game series Thursday night, have won seven straight games against the Braves at Coors Field, dating back to June 11, 2014. The Rockies' seven-game winning streak against the Braves at Coors Field is the longest in franchise history.
Julio Teheran will try to put an end to all that winning and continue his mastery over the Rockies when he makes his second consecutive start against them Friday night.
On Sunday, Teheran pitched seven scoreless innings against the Rockies at Turner Field but wasn't involved in the decision when the Braves scored in the ninth to win 1-0.
Teheran, who is 3-8 with a 2.79 ERA in 19 starts, is 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA against the Rockies in six starts.
Jon Gray, who matched Teheran with seven scoreless innings Sunday, will again oppose him. Gray is 5-4 with a 4.33 ERA in 16 starts. He has a team-leading 103 strikeouts and 32 walks in 95 2/3 innings. He leads the Rockies with 11 quality starts and has pitched at least seven innings a team-high seven times. This will be Gray's eighth start this season at Coors Field, where he is 3-0 with a 4.71 ERA and has allowed nine walks and 37 hits in 42 innings with 47 strikeouts.
The latter statistic is a crucial indicator at Coors Field to Gray, 24, who is in his first full season in the big leagues.
“I think that's really the way you have to live here,” he said. “I don't necessarily think it's a sinker thing or a ground ball thing. I just think you have to miss bats and be unpredictable. Don't let guys eliminate (the possibility of seeing) pitches.”
Gray has gotten considerably more comfortable as the season has gone on with his curveball, a pitch he started throwing in spring training.
“Even just show them the curveball first pitch for a strike — they haven't my slider yet and I've already got a strike on them,” Gray said. “So I've only got two more to go. I'm looking for a quality pitch and with two strikes, it's put-away time.”
In addition to a mid-90s fastball, a sharp-breaking slider and his curveball, Gray also throws a changeup.
“I feel like every pitch is there right now,” he said. “I feel like every pitch is a weapon.”
One of the Braves hitters Gray will oppose is Nick Markakis, who had a rather unusual streak end Thursday night. On his final at-bat in the ninth inning, Markakis struck out, swinging and missing strike three from Jason Motte.
Markakis had gone 32 plate appearances without having swung and missed a pitch, a streak that began July 10 in the final game before the All-Star break and went seven full games and most of an eighth.
Markakis hasn't reached 100 strikeouts in a season since 2008 and entered this season averaging one strikeout every 6.9 at-bats, which is good in today's game. This season, Markakis is hitting .260 in 94 games with 23 doubles, five homers and 47 RBI. He has 58 strikeouts and is averaging one strikeout every 6.2 at-bats.
“He's got such a great eye at the plate,” interim Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He doesn't expand the strike zone. He's as disciplined a hitter as I've seen. It's almost like if he takes a pitch, it probably was a ball.
“He's got a really good eye, a good feel for the strike zone. It's like his at-bats, he really slows everything down to where he stays with balls a long time. Doesn't go out of the strike zone, obviously.”