Youth served the Rockies quite well Tuesday night at frosty Coors Field.
Left-hander Kyle Freeland, 24, pitched one of the best games of his budding career, tossing seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball. He struck out eight, walked just two and needed only 90 pitches to get the job done. It was the third time in Freeland’s career that he pitched at least seven shutout innings.
Shortstop Trevor Story, 25, blasted a grand slam in Colorado’s five-run second inning. Left fielder David Dahl, 24, hit a stand-up triple and came into score in the fifth on Ian Desmond’s single.
The end result was a stress-free, 8-0 victory over San Diego. For a Rockies team that entered the night just 3-7 at home, it was a much-needed breakout performance. Colorado improved to 13-12 with its second shutout of the season.
“I felt like I was filling up the zone really well and me and (catcher Chris) Iannetta were on the same page,” Freeland said. “I knew that the bullpen was taxed the past few days, and it was really nice that I was able to give them solid rest and go deep into the game.”
Pitching with precision, especially early in the game, Freeland won his first game since July 30, a span of 16 outings (12 starts, four relief appearances). He worked both sides of the plate and mixed in all off his pitches. He worked out of a bit of a jam in the fifth when he walked Austin Hedges and gave up a two-out double to Manuel Margot, but escaped by striking out Franchy Cordero for the third time, using a nasty slider.
“He’s a big boy and he can put a charge into a baseball if you let him,” Freeland said of Cordero. “So our game plan was to stay away from him with fastballs and sliders. I fed him quite a few sliders there and he had trouble laying off.”
Rockies manager Bud Black liked Freeland’s aggressiveness, especially early in the game.
“He attacked with the fastball and attacked with the slider,” Black said. “He pitched in well with righties, and pitched away well with lefties, so the glove-side command was great. He set the tone … he mowed them down. It was a great game.”
Padres lefty Eric Lauer made his big-league debut, and the Rockies put heat on him immediately, scoring two runs in the first, aided by a throwing error by Padres second baseman Jose Pirela.
Story’s 428-foot shot in the second, as it turned out, salted the game away. Colorado jammed the bases with back-to-back singles by DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon and a walk by Nolan Arenado. Then Story picked out Lauer’s 1-1, 92 mph fastball and drove it to left at 107 mph. It was Colorado’s first grand slam of the season and the second of Story’s career.
“We talked about Trevor looking better the last four or five games,” Black said. “Trev’s at-bats have been better. There’s solid contact, he took another walk tonight, he’s doing fine.”
Story’s first career slam came on April 21, 2017 vs. the Giants and right-hander Johnny Cueto. The shortstop leads Colorado with 18 RBIs, and he’s in the midst of a red-hot streak. Over the past eight games, he’s hitting .423 (11-for-16), with two doubles, one triple, three homers and 12 RBIs.
“It’s about just being ready to hit and not trying to do too much,” Story said. “That helps me a lot. Less is more for me, in a lot of ways. I’m just trying to put my best swing on it.”
The Rockies will attempt to win the three-game series Wednesday afternoon. It would be their first series victory at Coors Field this season.
Padres RHP Tyson Ross (2-1, 2.81) vs. Rockies RHP Jon Gray (1-4, 6.75), 1:10 p.m. Wednesday; no TV, 850 AM
The Rockies need Gray to snap out of his funk. Over his last three games, he’s 0-3 with a 10.34 ERA, the worst stretch of his big-league career. He gave up seven runs (five earned) on eight hits, struck out one and walked three in Colorado’s 16-5 loss to the Cubs last Friday. Gray said he had lacked any real command of his slider. Ross has been one of the best pitchers in baseball in the early going, thanks to a slider that has been especially biting. Last Friday against Arizona, the 31-year-old right-hander came four outs shy of tossing the first no-hitter in Padres’ franchise history. Ross is giving up fewer than seven hits per nine innings, the lowest mark of his career. — Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post
Thursday: Off day
Friday: Rockies LHP Tyler Anderson (1-0, 4.32) vs. Marlins RHP Jose Urena (0-3, 5.88), 5:10 p.m., ATTRM
Saturday: Rockies RHP German Marquez (1-2, 6.14) vs. Marlins TBA, 5:10 p.m., ATTRM