DENVER — For the second straight day, the Rockies got seven strong innings from a rookie starting pitcher. This time it was Kyle Freeland who led them to an 8-0 win over the Giants and their first home sweep of San Francisco since 2002.
“Today was a great day,” Freeland said. “But you can always feel better, you can always improve your game no matter what your line looks like.”
Freeland pitched seven shutout innings against the Giants, allowing six hits and a walk while striking out three. He also got 12 outs via the ground ball.
“Going forward, that should be a big part of Kyle’s game, the ground ball,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.
The outing from Freeland came on the back of a start from fellow rookie Antonio Senzatela, who allowed just one run in seven innings in Saturday’s 12-3 Rockies win.
“Nobody’s a rookie here,” Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra said. “We play in the major leagues, everybody’s a professional.”
Parra went on to praise the poise and performance of the Rockies’ young starters.
“Right now, they’re playing like they’ve got 10 years in the league,” Parra said.
One of those times Freeland played like a 10-year veteran was in the sixth inning Sunday. Wih two on and two out in a 3-0 game, Freeland struck out Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford with a slider off the outside corner.
“That was a good pitch,” Freeland said. “Started on the outer half of the plate and he was looking out there, ended up swinging at it and missing.”
Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds, who had a fine defensive play overturned by replay earlier in the sixth inning, praised the maturity of Freeland and his fellow rookie starter.
“Him and Senz, if they get in a jam they don’t freak out, they bear down and get outs when they need them,” Reynolds said.
Freeland’s outing was the fifth time in the last seven games that a Rockies starter has pitched at least six innings, something Black said was a contributor to the bullpen’s NL-best 2.76 ERA.
“It’s been nice,” Black said. “A function of the starting pitching is it allows you to use the bullpen the way we’ve been able to use it.”
The win moved the Rockies to 10-3 on the season against the Dodgers and Giants, the two teams that finished ahead of them in 2016. Five of those wins have been started by Freeland or Senzatela.
“It’s huge,” Reynolds said. “When you win games in the division you put separation between you and the teams trying to catch you.”
The Rockies are now 41⁄2 games ahead of the Dodgers and seven ahead of the Giants.
This is not the first time in recent memory that the Rockies have gotten off to a fast start. They matched their 13-6 record in 2017 in both 2011 and 2013—seasons in which they finished with 73 and 74 wins, respectively. Black said the Rockies’ history of stumbling after strong starts does not affect his evaluation of the 2017 squad.
“Every year is different,” Black said. “This is a different team than years past, so I don’t gauge that as much as some people might. This is a different group of 25 players.”
After having 15 straight games against NL West foes, the Rockies will step out of the division to welcome the Washington Nationals to Coors Field for a four-game series. Washington is the only NL team currently with a better record than the Rockies, bringing a 13-5 mark to Denver.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Reynolds said. “They’ve got a good squad, playing really well right now, just have to win more games than we lose.”
The teams will open the series at 6:40 p.m. MT Monday night, with Tyler Anderson taking the mound for the Rockies against Washington’s Joe Ross.