Pitchers are creatures of habit and routine, no matter the level they are playing at.
An All-Star break, among other things, can throw them off. At least that seems to be the case with the Albuquerque Isotopes’ starters of late in the eyes of pitching coach Darryl Scott.
"We saw some struggles coming out of the break because that kind of took them out of their routine," Scott said before Thursday’s game. "(But) now you’re starting to see guys fall back into their routine and be comfortable where they’re at."
Kyle Freeland live up to his coach's prediction and went out and pitched a gem in the Isotopes’ 8-3 victory over the Salt Lake Bees.
Freeland (2-2) allowed just two runs on seven hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven in 6.1 innings. He threw 63 of 97 pitches for strikes.
"All of the things we’ve been working with him on in terms of him channeling his energy, you saw a good example of that tonight," manager Glenallen Hill said. "The thing that I was most pleased with — and Darryl would probably tell you the same — was his ability to execute pitches. It was really nice."
Freeland was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes. Even in most cases where he fell behind in the count, he was able to battle back, striking out numerous Bees on full counts.
"It means he’s throwing balls that are in the strike zone and hitters are aware that he’s throwing strikes so the longer the at-bat goes, the more the hitter feels like he’s got to swing," Hill said. "So, in those cases, if you execute your pitches you can expand the zone off the same angle and you’ll get a swing. And that’s what he did."
The only runs for Salt Lake came on a leadoff home run by Kaleb Cowart in the fourth and Cal Towey’s RBI double in the seventh. Other than those two hits, and Quintin Berry’s triple that preceded Towey’s double, almost all of the contact off Freeland was soft.
"He was fantastic, he was able to work both sides of the plate with his fastball for strikes and for effect," catcher Tom Murphy said. "His changeup was the best I’ve seen tonight, which was huge against their right-handed lineup. Then his curveball/slider, he could throw it anytime he wanted. They didn’t know what was coming.
"It was a good feeling for him, not only for him, but for me in being able to call any pitch."
The game was also notable for a fiery night from Murphy, in more ways than one. He went 3-for-4, falling a triple a short of the cycle, and is now hitting .569 (33-for-58) with eight total home runs in July.
Murphy also had words with Berry after the triple in the seventh. Berry was constantly stepping out of the batter’s box to try and throw off Freeland’s timing all game. When Freeland and Murphy protested the umpires allowing this to happen, Berry took exception and he was then yelling something for all to hear as he raced into third.
In response, Murphy marched out to third base and gave Berry an earful as others kept them apart. Berry had more to say when he crossed the plate, leading to even more jawing between Murphy and the Salt Lake dugout.
"Murph can handle bears, so when you have a guy that’s not afraid to wrestle with bears, yeah, you’ve got to be careful, you don’t want him to go off the reservation too far," Hill said. "But that’s the kind of personality that Murph (has) and he’s feeling very comfortable taking that type of leadership role."
The umpires officially warned both dugouts, but tempers subsided and the game rolled along without any further incident.
Hill took Freeland out both due to pitch count and as a precaution.
"Then his last inning there was a little bit of testosterone flying everywhere, which is part of the game," Hill said. "He has just as much testosterone as everybody else, so we were prepared to not let him get into trouble."
Murphy said it was a no-brainer to get in between Berry and Freeland.
"I’m going to stand up for my pitchers whenever I can," Murphy said. "If that situation ever arises, I’m going to be right there for them."
Around the Lab
- Matt Carasiti retired two of the three batters he faced in relief of Freeland in the seventh. He got Juan Graterol to ground out to short, grazed Angel Rosa with a pitch to put him on and then induced a flyball to left off the bat of Brendan Ryan.
- Jordan Patterson went 2-for-4 with a monstrous solo home run and three runs scored. Joey Wong was 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBI.
- Rehabbing reliever Justin Miller gave up one hit, two walks and five stolen bases in one inning but only let one run come across. Miguel Castro followed with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.