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Jul 23, 1:37 AM EDT

Gray's pitching keys Rockies' 4-3 win over Braves


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DENVER (AP) -- His early career struggles behind him, Jon Gray is answering the call as the Colorado Rockies' ace.

Gray pitched seven strong innings, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story hit two-run homers off relievers after starter Julio Teheran left because of an injury, and the Rockies beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3 on Friday night.

Gray (6-4) shut down the Braves after allowing a run in the first inning, finishing with eight strikeouts in helping the Rockies hand the Braves their eighth straight loss at Coors Field.

"He's really pitching like an ace and the future's bright with him on the mound, no doubt," Arenado said. "His intensity has been up there. He expects to win. He expects to get guys out. He bears down and it's been really impressive to watch him pitch lately."

The Rockies' first-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2013, Gray went without a win in his first 13 starts - the longest streak at the start of a career in team history. Since then, though, he has gone 6-3 with a 3.77 ERA over 13 starts since earning his first victory May 13.

"His slider has been a difference-maker this year," Rockies manager Wat Weiss said. "It's really sharp."

Gray said he has become more sure of himsef on the mound, drawing on a mix of fastballs, curves, and sliders.

"My confidence is building and I'm looking to build it more," he said.

The Braves, meanwhile, were dealing with health questions about Teheran, who left the game after facing one batter in the fifth with what the team said was right lat tightness. His status was described as day to day.

"Let's hope it's nothing big," Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. "He had a look on his face of, 'I'd like to try it.' You want to keep going and then you end up screwing it up for weeks. They checked him out. Did everything, but felt they'd get a better read (Saturday)."

Teheran left after trying to run down Mark Reynolds' infield hit, though the pitcher said he may have tweaked the muscle throwing a pitch in the previous inning.

"I was feeling a little discomfort and there was some pain," he said. "I decided to come out of the game. I didn't want to make it worse."

Teheran walked off the field under his own power and was relieved by Joel De La Cruz.

Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, the Rockies went in front behind a four-run burst. DJ LeMahieu started the sixth with a walk and Arenado, coming off a scheduled rest day Thursday, drove a 2-2 offering from De La Cruz (0-3) into the bleachers in left-center field for his 24th home run.

Dario Alvarez relieved and Carlos Gonzalez singled ahead of the home run by Story. The Rockies' rookie has 24 homers.

Jace Peterson connected for a two-run homer off Jason Motte in the eighth, pulling the Braves within a run.

Carlos Estevez allowed a double to Adonis Garcia and walked Ender Inciarte to start the ninth. The runners advanced on a sacrifice and Erick Aybar walked to load the bases before Estevez recovered to get Chase d'Arnaud on a popup and strike out Peterson for his eighth save in 11 chances.

Braves pitchers picked off two baserunners, costing the Rockies scoring opportunities.

Charlie Blackmon singled to lead off the game, extending his hitting streak to 14 games. He stole second but Teheran got him out with a pickoff throw from the mound, allowing the Braves pitcher to withstand Arenado's two-out triple unscathed by getting Gonzalez to ground out.

In the fifth, De La Cruz, who had just relieved Teheran, made his first throw from the mound to first base and Freddie Freeman tagged a diving Mark Reynolds before he could get his hand back on the bag. Nick Hundley followed with a double and was stranded at third when Blackmon flied out to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Braves: RHP Shea Simmons, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, was slated to make his first rehab appearance on Saturday for the Gulf Coast Rookie League Braves. He's expected to throw one inning. ... RHP Dan Winkler, in the midst of a comeback from a right elbow fracture, threw on the side Friday and provided there are no setbacks, team officials could put together a minor league rehab schedule for him.

Rockies: LF Gerardo Parra, sidelined since mid-June because of a sprained left ankle, is stepping up his conditioning workouts and could soon begin a rehab assignment. ... LHP Chris Rusin, placed on the 15-day DL in early June with a left shoulder strain, is nearing a return. He's expected to be re-evaluated by training staff after a scheduled rehab assignment on Sunday.

UP NEXT

Braves: RHP Matt Wisler (4-9) has been hurt recently by the home run ball, especially on the road, where he has allowed at least two homers in each of his past three starts away from home.

Rockies: LHP Tyler Anderson (2-3) has won two starts since dropping his first three career decisions.

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