For Austin Gomber, being the primary return in the Rockies’ widely-panned trade of Nolan Arenado came with a certain amount of inherited expectations.
Monday night in Queens, Gomber rose to those expectations.
The southpaw tossed eight strong innings, yielding four hits and two runs in the Rockies’ 3-2 win over the Mets. The victory gave Colorado its first series-opening road win this season and just their third victory overall on the road.
“Whether it’s a trade or not (that got me to the Rockies), this is what I’m trying to do,” Gomber said. “I don’t have a ton of (service) time in the big leagues, and I feel like I’m still in that category where your career goes one of two ways. Either you prove you can be a guy who can stick around for a long time, or you start to show you’re a guy who flails around and struggles.”
Monday certainly offered hope for the former, as Gomber’s four-pitch mix at Citi Field kept the Mets off balance in the best start of the 27-year-old’s career. He threw 38 fastballs but also 28 changeups, 23 sliders and 13 curveballs as Colorado won its fourth consecutive game for the first time this season.
Manager Bud Black said the changeup was Gomber’s best weapon and “the thing that separated this game from other games (in 2021).”
“It was just the use of the changeup and the number of outs recorded because of how he was disrupting the timing with the change,” Black said. “He had it going.”
Meanwhile, the Rockies gave Regis Jesuit product David Peterson a rude reception in his first start against his local team. Ryan McMahon led off the second inning with a 402-foot homer to right-center, his 12th of the year. Elias Diaz followed with a two-out homer to left for a 2-0 lead.
Colorado tacked on another run off Peterson in the fourth when Garrett Hampson skied a long fly ball to center field that caused the Mets’ Johneshwy Fargas to crash into the wall, which led to his exit from the game. Hampson’s triple brought home Josh Fuentes to make it 3-0.
Meanwhile, Gomber — coming off a quality start in San Diego last week — was on cruise control. Jonathan Villar’s single in the fourth inning was the lone blemish for Gomber through the first six innings.
“I thought my stuff got better as the game went on,” Gomber said.
The Mets finally got to Gomber in the seventh with James McCann’s two-out homer to center field, cutting their deficit to 3-1. But Gomber struck out the next batter, Dominic Smith, to end the threat. He finished with eight whiffs, and credited a new, aggressive mindset for his recent momentum.
After seven walks in his Rockies debut against the Dodgers on April 4, and four walks on two other occasions in the opening month, Gomber’s honed in his control.
“I wasn’t really attacking (at the start of the season),” Gomber said. “That was evident in my walk numbers, really, especially when comparing my first couple starts compared to my last couple.”
In the ninth inning pinch hitter Brandon Drury led off with a solo homer off an elevated changeup to cut the score to 3-2. The next hitter, Patrick Mazeika, singled to end Gomber’s attempt at his first career complete game.
With closer Daniel Bard unavailable, Carlos Estevez came on and locked down the win. He recorded three consecutive outs to earn his second save.
“(Tonight’s) hard to top that, for sure,” Gomber said. “I felt like I was pretty locked in, and I told Buddy I wanted to go back out there (for the ninth). Obviously it didn’t go the way I planned in that last inning, and I left Estevez in a tough spot with the top of the lineup, but he had a huge pick-me-up there.”
Black said he believes Estevez, who made his second appearance since coming off the the injured list for a finger injury, is starting to come into form as one of Colorado’s top relievers.
“This can be a momentum builder,” Black said. “That’s a couple good (appearances) in a row for Carlos… That can energize a pitcher, something like what when you come in and get a save. It can do wonders for your confidence and it can do wonders for the rest of the (bullpen) guys to see that.”
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