DENVER — In a matchup with the defending American League champions, it was the Colorado Rockies who were able to play mistake-free baseball, and take advantage of the Cleveland Indians not doing so, in an 8-1 win on Wednesday.
Starting pitcher Kyle Freeland set the tone early for the Rockies, allowing just two hits in the first five innings he pitched.
“He threw strikes, a lot of strike ones, a lot of pitching aggressive, he was the aggressor,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.
Freeland’s strong start gave the Rockies’ offense a chance to grab an early lead, which it did in the third inning on a two-run double from Nolan Arenado. The Rockies added two more against Indians starter Trevor Bauer in the fourth on another two-run double, this time from Charlie Blackmon, giving the Rockies a 4-0 lead and chasing Bauer from the game.
The big issue for Bauer in the game was walks, as he issued five in his 3 1⁄3 innings of work, two of which came around to score. In all, the Rockies worked nine walks against Cleveland pitching.
“I think that’s probably why we scored a bunch of runs,” Blackmon said. “I don’t think we had a ton of hits, but we always had traffic.”
Meanwhile, when Freeland did find himself in a bit of trouble after giving up a leadoff double to Francisco Lindor in the fourth, his defense picked him up, as Blackmon gunned down Lindor attempting to tag and advance to third on a Michael Brantley fly out.
“Chuck caught that thing and he let it rip,” Freeland said. “I had a pretty good view of Nolan’s tag and I saw that he got his foot before he got to the bag.”
Getting the double play required an acrobatic, diving tag from Arenado and a replay review to overturn an initial safe call by first base umpire D.J. Reyburn, who was covering the play.
“I made my mind up that I was going to dive for him no matter what, luckily I got his foot, but it was all Charlie, he made a great throw,” Arenado said.
The Rockies nearly added a fifth run in the fifth when Carlos Gonzalez launched a 1-2 pitch from Cleveland reliver Nick Goody 480 feet up to The Rooftop in right field, but just foul. The at bat would end in a strikeout three pitches later.
“I should at least get a double for that,” Gonzalez said.
Arenado did provide that fifth run an inning later with an RBI triple — yes, you read that correctly — to bring home Blackmon, who had singled.
Cleveland finally got to Freeland in the seventh on a solo home run from Jose Ramirez, cutting the Rockies’ lead to 5-1. Black then removed his starter after allowing a one-out single to Austin Jackson and the rookie southpaw exited to a standing ovation from the crowd of 36,909.
“It was awesome,” Freeland said. “When I got pulled and I walked off the mound I got chills from that standing ovation.”
Freeland ended his day after 6 1⁄3 innings, allowing just the one run on six hits, striking out five and, for the first time in his big league career, walking none.
“Kyle showed pretty good control in the minor leagues,” Black said. “Here in the big leagues so far in a short period of time the walks are a little bit high, but today was a good sign, no walks.”
Freeland entered the gave having walked four batters per nine innings in his rookie season after walking just 2.2 batters per nine innings in his minor league career.
“Throughout the season so far the walks have been a little higher than I’d like,” Freeland said. “Today I didn’t have any and I was able to fill up the zone and get a lot of ground balls.”
As a staff, the Rockies walked just one batter in the game, and it was a two-out walk issued to Jackson by Chad Qualls in the top of the ninth with the Rockies holding an 8-1 lead.
“Especially against good clubs, you don’t want to give free passes,” Black said.
The Rockies will now head back on the road after sweeping the brief two-game homestand, opening a four-game series with the world champion Chicago Cubs tomorrow at Wrigley Field. Arenado said the Rockies are ready for what they’ll be facing in the Cubs, who they took two of three from in a series at Coors Field last month.
“When Washington came to town, everyone said that was a test, and then the Diamondbacks came to town and that was another test. I don’t know how many tests we have to pass,” Arenado said.
Tyler Chatwood will get the start in tomorrow’s series opener against Cubs lefty Jon Lester. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Mountain time.