Kyle Freeland pitched like his ace self and the Rockies offense did just enough to win a quality baseball game against the Dodgers by a score of 4-2 on Friday.
Kyle Freeland had a bit of a tough return to MLB after beginning the season on the injured list. Recently, however, he’s pitching like a Cy Young candidate. Since June 22nd, the Rockies lefty has rocked a 2.53 ERA before Friday’s contest, and did nothing to boost that number in his outing. Freeland tossed six excellent innings and allowed two runs (both solo home runs) on just four hits while striking out seven and walking none. In control from the offset, the Colorado native used excellent placement of his fastball backed by some gross offspeed pitches to keep the Dodgers off-balance all evening. His only blemish were solo homers to Will Smith and Trea Turner in the third inning, allowing just a pair of singles otherwise.
That strong start allowed the Rockies to combat a very game Andre Jackson, who deserves his own accolades. After a rough first inning from Brusdar Graterol, the young righty threw 4 2⁄3 strong innings for LA, allowing just one run in that period while working around four hits and two walks while collecting two strikeouts. Jackson, who only recently made his MLB debut, looked like a veteran long reliever as he held Colorado in check (well, until C.J. Cron got to him).
With the victory on Friday, Freeland collects his first win in Dodger Stadium, going 0-3 in his seven previous starts there.
Dingers do the job
The entirety of the Rockies’ offense on Friday came on three swings. The first was a Charlie Blackmon bomb in the opening inning, his 10th of the season. Connor Joe - who continues to swing the bat exceptionally well - began the game with a single and moved to second on a Brendan Rodgers fielder’s choice. Not content with a base hit RBI, Blackmon instead parked the first pitch he saw (a belt-high sinker) way over the right field wall to quickly put the Rox up 2-0.
After the Dodgers tied the game with the aforementioned pair of long balls, the game stayed deadlocked for the next few innings as Freeland and Jackson continued their duel. Something had to give, though, and it would be potential Player of the Month candidate C.J. Cron who turned the tide. Getting into a 2-1 count to begin the sixth inning, Cron cranked a changeup for an absolutely titanic home run to give the Rockies a 3-2 lead. The home run was estimated to be at 431 feet, but look at the video below and tell me it’s not longer.
Elías Díaz would get in on the long ball fun himself, sending an Alex Vesia fastball over the left field wall to open the ninth inning. A.J. Pollock almost made a highlight reel catch to rob the homer, but came up just a hair short.
Bullpen adjustments pay dividends
It’s no secret that Daniel Bard has struggled in his closer role recently. Before the game began on Friday, the Rockies made some tweaks, moving Bard into the eighth inning setup role and leaving the ninth to fireballer Carlos Estévez.
The change worked a treat. Jhoulys Chacín pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, continuing to show that he deserves a high-leverage bullpen spot. Bard, now in the eighth, worked around a leadoff single (that could probably be considered an error) after Brendan Rodgers mishandled a Will Smith grounder to retire the next three batters he faced, including recording two key strikeouts. It’s worth noting that after Smith got on, Bard faced the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, Trea Turner, and Justin Turner (no easy feat), and shut them down without incident.
One hopes that the move will help Bard settle in and regain his effective 2020 form.
Ninth inning scaries
No such thing as an easy win, right?
Estévez took the hill in the bottom of the final frame and allowed a leadoff single to Mookie Betts, then moved him over to second on a wild pitch. With the tying run now at the plate, he managed to strike out pinch hitter Max Muncy on a 3-2 count. Next up was the always-dangerous Corey Seager, who struck out on a... fortunate called third strike from home plate umpire Jim Wolf (thanks Jim!). Estévez’s last test was A.J. Pollock, who battled but eventually was called out on a checked swing for the final out.
Estévez, not having the best command of his fastball, used his changeup to battle back and collect those critical strikeouts for his third save of the season. The Rockies snagged their 16th road win of the season, and have won two in a row away from Coors.
(look it ain’t much, but we’ll take it!)
Game two of the Rockies-Dodgers series takes place on Saturday as Jon Gray (7-10, 4.13 ERA) faces down veteran David Price (4-2, 3.82 ERA). Expect Trevor Story to be back in the lineup after taking Friday’s game off.
First pitch is at 7:10pm MDT.
See you then!