Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland is a street fighter and a thinker. It’s a pretty good combination for a major-league pitcher.
Those traits were on display during the Rockies’ 6-0 victory Saturday at Nationals Park.
In the sixth inning, Washington loaded the bases against Freeland with two singles and a throwing error by Rockies first baseman C.J. Cron that wiped out a potential double play.
Unfazed, Freeland induced Ryan Zimmerman to ground out back to the mound where Freeland started a 1-2-3 double play. When Freeland walked Carter Kieboom, the bases were loaded again. But Freeland struck out Yadiel Hernandez on a wicked curveball to scuttle the Nats’ would-be rally. Freeland pumped his fist and let out a scream as he walked off the mound.
“Kyle realizes the importance of certain at-bats … in the microcosm, in the inning, and ultimately in the game, I think his in-game awareness is very high.
“So he has that. And it’s a great trait, to be able to understand the importance of a particular point in the game that swings the pendulum. He gets it.”
The Rockies, who were 6-31 away from Coors Field on June 14, have won five straight on the road and are 7-1 on their current road trip. They have won 11 of their last 16 on the road.
“It seems to me that there is a little bit more of a freedom that we are playing with, offensively,” said Trevor Story, who cranked a three-run homer in the fifth inning. “And our pitchers are doing their thing, too.”
Freeland gave up seven hits, walked one and struck out seven over his six scoreless innings. He used his sinking two-seam fastball a lot, knowing that on a hot and humid day in Washington D.C. that the pitch would have good movement. He’s learned when to use certain pitches and discard others, given the circumstance of the game.
“I think a lot of that comes with experience, being in the league for some time and learning a lot and truly learning about your arsenal,” said Freeland, who’s finishing his fifth season in the majors. “The two-seamer, at sea level, is something that I can lean pretty hard on, just because I know it’s going to be catching that thick air and have quality movement to it.
“It still looks like a fastball, but it’s going to be moving arm side, for me, to throw hitters off.”
Freeland wasn’t the only headline-grabber. Red-hot second baseman Brendan Rodgers hit a two-run homer in the first off of lefty Patrick Corbin and added a double and a single to finish a triple shy of the cycle. Rodgers has hit 14 homers, 12 on the road.
Story, entering what is likely the final three weeks of his Rockies career, continued his late-season resurgence. His three-run homer off Corbin was lined to right field. Story has homered four times in the first seven games of the road trip and has five home runs over his last 10 games, bringing his season total to 23.
His ability to drive the ball to right is a good sign.
“It just kind of tells me that I’m staying on the ball and I’m working behind the ball really well,” Story said. “I’m still not where I’d like it to be but there are, for sure, signs of that.”
Corbin was done after four innings, saddled with six runs (five earned) on nine hits as his ERA rose to 6.11.
Yency Almonte, Robert Stephenson and Daniel Bard combined to blank the Nats for the final three innings. Washington was 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
The Rockies will attempt to finish off a three-game sweep of the Nationals on Sunday afternoon.
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