Rockies open long homestand against Reds

DENVER — The Colorado Rockies on Friday begin a nine-game homestand, their second longest of the season, hoping they can finally gain some momentum at Coors Field and find an offensive groove that has been elusive wherever they play.

Jon Gray, who is 4-6 with a 5.34 ERA, will start against the Cincinnati Reds, who will send Sal Romano to the mound. Like Gray, Romano, who is 2-5 with a 5.62 ERA, has pitched poorly while losing his past two starts.

The Rockies went 4-5 on a West Coast road trip against NL West foes San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Despite scoring just 31 runs on the trip, getting shut out twice and hitting .213, the Rockies (26-24) moved into first place Monday and lead the slumping Arizona Diamondbacks by a half game.

“You want to do better, obviously,” Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters Wednesday night after a 3-0 loss to the Dodgers and Kenta Maeda, who struck out 12 and gave up two hits in 6 2/3 innings. “We didn’t play our best baseball every time. I thought we pitched really well. We strung together some innings offensively to win us some games. We played solid defense throughout the road trip. We just didn’t well in certain game. Some of the credit goes to the opposing pitcher, like tonight. But we need to swing the bats better, for sure.”

The Rockies lead the NL with 19 road wins but are 7-11 at home. They have struck out at least 10 times in 23 of their 50 games. The Rockies rank 13th in the NL with a .228 average and 12th with a .689 OPS. And instead of thriving at Coors Field, the Rockies are languishing, ranking sixth at home with a .252 average and fifth with a .751 OPS.

In addition to the Reds, the Rockies will play the Giants and Dodgers on a homestand that starts a 15-game stretch that includes 12 at Coors Field.

Gray is coming off his shortest start of the season Saturday at San Francisco, where he gave up nine hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings and lost 9-4. In his past two outings, Gray is 0-2, 11.00 after going 3-0, 0.45 in his three previous starts with three walks, 25 strikeouts and one run allowed in 20 innings.

Catcher Tony Wolters has caught Gray’s poor past two starts as well as the three previous outstanding ones. After Gray stumbled at San Francisco, Wolters said, “I think his command could’ve been a little better, and he got unraveled a little quick. Jon needs to be able to turn the page quick. He’s getting better at times, when he slows the game down and executes pitches. That’s all he should care about. Just be a robot out there.”

Gray is 2-0, 3.09 in two starts against the Reds. Romano is 1-0, 3.60 in one start against the Rockies. It was on July 6, 2017, in his second career start and first on the road.

Romano is 0-2, 15.96 in his past two starts, including Saturday against the Chicago Cubs, when he allowed six hits and seven runs in five innings. But before these past two poor outings, Romano was 1-0, 1.59 in two starts. He has had trouble with left-handed hitters, who are hitting .316 with a .968 OPS and has issued 25 walks in 49 2/3 innings with 34 strikeouts.

The Reds (18-33) are 15-18 under interim manager Jim Riggleman. They are 9-14 on the road and beginning a nine-game trip that will also take them to Arizona and San Diego. They just finished a 3-4 homestand Thursday with a 5-4 win against Pittsburgh that included Eugenio Suarez’s eighth homer of the season and third career grand slam. Despite missing 16 games in April with a fractured right thumb, Suarez is tied for the NL lead with 38 RBIs. In 26 games since being reinstated from the disabled list, Suarez has six homers and 31 RBIs in 26 games.

“He’s been really clutch for us,” Riggleman told reporters Thursday. “We just keep running him out there. He’s a heck of a player.”