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Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black looking for the punch in series finale against Padres

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Kyle Freeland makes his second career start as the Rockies look to win the series against San Diego.

In an unexpected twist in the early part of the 2017 season, the Colorado Rockies pitching staff leads all of baseball in strikeouts entering today’s series finale against the San Diego Padres.

“Isn’t that great?” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “I love the strikeout, I love the punch.”

The Rockies staff has struck out 20 Padres in the first two games of the series and 91 batters in the first nine games of the season.

“I think it’s more of a function of who the guys are, we have the ability to strike guys out with our guys’ stuff,” Black said.

Trying to get “the punch” for the Rockies today will be rookie Kyle Freeland, who is making his second career start. The Denver native struck out six in six innings of work in his Major League debut on Friday, allowing just one run on four hits with a pair of walks in the Rockies’ home opener.

“There’s a different feeling he had that day that he’ll never have again,” Black said.

Though he will be away from the buzz of making his big league debut on Opening Day in his hometown, Black said he expects the same intensity from Freeland when he takes the mound today.

“This game, he’ll be just as fired up, just as competitive, hopefully we get the same result,” Black said.

The Rockies did make one change to their lineup, with Alexi Amarista getting a start in left field, a move made possible by moving Gerardo Parra to first base.

“We have the ability to move guys around,” Black said. “Parra’s one of those guys, he can play first, here last year with the Rockies you saw he can play right, center, left. The versatility he brings is big for us.”

Padres starting pitcher Zach Lee will, like Freeland, be making his second career start in the big leagues, his first coming with the Dodgers in 2015, five years after he was a first round pick for them.

“I’ve seen his name a lot over the last handful of years,” Black said. “Big prospect, big Dodgers prospect. Hasn’t quite materialized for him, but he’s got a good arm.”

First pitch today is at 1:10 p.m. Mountain time.