The Colorado Rockies struggled in their season opener at Texas last week, but after that 1-0 shutout they have been unbeatable. The Rockies took the last two games against the Rangers and then swept the A's at Oakland in a quick two-game series.
Now Colorado (4-1) returns to Denver for its home opener against the San Diego Padres on Friday night.
Rockies starter Jon Gray has plenty of experience against the division rivals while San Diego starter Garrett Richards will face Colorado for the first time.
The Rockies had an off day Thursday while the Padres beat the San Francisco Giants 12-7 in 10 innings to improve to 5-2. San Diego has also won its first two series of the season.
Richards is making his second start of the season. He had a no-decision in his first outing Sunday when the Padres 4-3 lost to Arizona, though he was stellar: five scoreless innings, one hit, three walks, six strikeouts.
Richards spent his first eight seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. San Diego signed him to a two-year deal before the 2019 season, a risk for the Padres after Richards' 2018 season was cut short due to Tommy John surgery. He didn't pitch until late in 2019, making three starts.
"It's just fun. I'm having fun playing baseball again," Richards told Fox Sports San Diego. "It's not rehab anymore. It feels good to be back out there and pitching pain-free. After having Tommy John and being able to start over with my mechanics ... it's really become very comfortable to pitch for me."
Comfortable isn't the how most pitchers would describe working at Coors Field, but Gray is one of the few who thrives in the thin air of Colorado. He was 6-2 with a 3.46 ERA in 13 home games (12 starts) last season.
"I'm ready for that real competition there, and I feel like I always have an edge (at Coors Field), so I'm excited," he said this week. "(At home I pitch) knowing that I'm going to out-do the other guy and knowing that our lineup is going to hit the ball. It's a good combination, and it makes you feel confident."
Gray has faced the Padres 20 times (19 starts) in his career and has fared well against them. He is 10-4 with a 2.97 ERA with an average of 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Gray had one of his most memorable games against them in 2016 when he fanned a career-high 16 batters in a four-hit shutout.
Gray got a no-decision in Colorado's first win of the season on Saturday, when he gave up one run in 4 2/3 innings against the Rangers. Manager Bud Black said Gray tired in the fifth inning of that 3-2 victory but thinks he can throw 90-plus pitches on Friday night.
"We saw in spring training the continued growth of Jon, and more than anything, from a couple years ago, now there's a poise and a confidence there that's showing pretty consistently," Black said. "He's to the point now where he's getting confidence in all his pitches, and not just the fastball/slider combination."
--Field Level Media