ROCK­IES 13, PI­RATES 3 Five home runs, plus good pitch­ing from Free­land, put cap on 5-1 home­s­tand

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Nick Groke

A nag­ging ap­pre­hen­sion still nib­bled at the Rock­ies on Sun­day morn­ing, eas­ily ex­plained by seven sea­sons with­out even a hint of post­sea­son play, six of them on the los­ing side of even. If hope dies by an­nual in­stall­ments in Colorado, it can find life in a flash.

Rock­ies rookie south­paw Kyle Free­land saw many sum­mers tick away into the triv­ial while grow­ing up in Den­ver, but with ev­ery weak ground­ball he forced from the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates’ lineup Sun­day af­ter­noon, any left­over de­spair this sea­son faded.

In a 13-3 vic­tory, with 40,118 fans watch­ing at Coors Field, the Rock­ies blasted back into se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion. Free­land re­turned to the ro­ta­tion for six ef­fec­tive in­nings, four Colorado bat­ters hit a to­tal of five home runs, in­clud­ing three in one in­ning, and the Rock­ies won a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive se­ries — their fifth vic­tory on a six-game home­s­tand and sixth in their past seven games over­all.

“We’re not lis­ten­ing to the noise,” Free­land said. “We don’t want to dip into that val­ley. We want to stay nice and level. Same with the peaks.”

The slump that car­ried the Rock­ies from late June into July did not help dis­pel their his­tory. But up­dated num­bers now do. The Rock­ies moved into sec­ond place in the Na­tional League West, jump­ing over the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs for the top wild-card play­off berth.

The Rock­ies have scored 74 runs in their past seven games, ty­ing a club record from the pre­hu­mi­dor days of 2000 for most runs in a week. And at 58-42, they have the fourth-best

record in base­ball.

“We feel good right now,” cen­ter fielder Charlie Black­mon said. “We had re­ally good at-bats. We’re hav­ing good at-bats with guys on base. We’re mak­ing the other team work. We’re not giv­ing away at-bats. It’s pro­duc­ing a lot of runs lately.”

Colorado’s turn­around was neatly book­ended by Free­land, a 24-year-old from Den­ver’s Thomas Jefferson High School who nearly threw a no-hit­ter at Coors Field on July 9, when he pitched 8L in­nings with­out al­low­ing a hit against the Chicago White Sox. Rock­ies man­ager Bud Black eased up on his reins, mov­ing Free­land to the bullpen coming out of the all-star break. But in­clud­ing a three-in­ning re­lief out­ing in New York on July 17, Free­land gave up only one hit over nearly 14 con­sec­u­tive in­nings.

That streak car­ried Free­land into the third in­ning against the Pi­rates, a Clint Hur­dle-led club that had won nine of its past 10 games at Coors Field through Fri­day. The Pi­rates’ first hit against Free­land was a weak grounder from Jordy Mercer to­ward sec­ond base. Josh Har­ri­son’s dou­ble to lead off the fourth was their first hit to the out­field grass.

Free­land never lost con­trol, even af­ter David Freese’s lead­off homer in the sixth. He forced three ground­outs to­ward Nolan Are­nado, in­clud­ing Mercer’s slight chop­per in the grass that the third base­man bare­handed to kill the side. By de­fen­sive prow­ess, Are­nado’s turn was topped only by Free­land’s putout of Josh Bell in the sec­ond, when the pitcher fielded a num­ber to his right, then jump-turned in the air to throw to first.

“It’s a feel­ing you get,” said Free­land, who forced 14 ground­balls among his 18 outs, in­clud­ing a bases-loaded Mercer grounder to end the fourth. “With me, I feel good when I have a good tempo and I see my pitches do­ing what they’re sup­posed to.”

The Rock­ies’ re­cent run reached streak status by the sixth in­ning. They hit around the order in the third against Pi­rates vet­eran righthander Ivan Nova, scor­ing four runs, in­clud­ing Are­nado’s two-run sin­gle. But the sixth was a blast. They sent 10 bat­ters to the plate. Mark Reynolds, Trevor Story and pinch-hit­ter Pat Valaika hit tworun homers. Reynolds bounced his shot off the sec­ond deck in right field. Car­los Gon­za­lez hit a sin­gle and a dou­ble in the in­ning. The Rock­ies scored seven runs for a 12-2 lead.

Reynolds hit an­other homer to cen­ter field in the eighth — his 22nd this sea­son, tied with Are­nado and two be­hind team leader Black­mon. He home­red in the fifth to left field, just his sec­ond ca­reer homer to the op­po­site side.

The Rock­ies are 33-3 this sea­son when they hit two or more home runs, 50-13 with just one. They hit five Sun­day. Power plays. And ev­ery­thing is fall­ing back into place for the Rock­ies.

“Once you get that snow­ball rolling the right way,” Reynolds said, “with con­fi­dence up and down the lineup, we’re a tough team.”

Matthew Stock­man, Getty Images

Rookie left-han­der Kyle Free­land, pitch­ing Sun­day against the Pi­rates at Coors Field, im­proved to 10-7 and low­ered his ERA to 3.64.

Matthew Stock­man, Getty Images

Rock­ies short­stop Trevor Story belts his 13th home run of the sea­son dur­ing the sixth in­ning Sun­day at Coors Field against the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates.

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