FREELAND STARS AS ROCKIES ROUT PIRATES 13-3
ROCKIES 13, PIRATES 3 Five home runs, plus good pitching from Freeland, put cap on 5-1 homestand
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.”
Rookie left-hander Kyle Freeland, pitching Sunday against the Pirates at Coors Field, improved to 10-7 and lowered his ERA to 3.64.
Rockies shortstop Trevor Story belts his 13th home run of the season during the sixth inning Sunday at Coors Field against the Pittsburgh Pirates.