ANAHEIM -- Kyle Freeland's march into the Cy Young Award conversation took on all comers Tuesday as he pitched the Rockies to a 3-2 Interleague victory over the Angels. The victory put Colorado back in a tie for first place in the National League West with Arizona, as the D-backs fell to the Giants, 1-0.
Freeland not only took on a potent Angels lineup, he also bested one fresh arm after another from the Angels' bullpen as manager Mike Scioscia's club went exclusively with relief pitchers.
"He's been great all year and has worked really hard controlling his emotions, controlling his delivery and that has been a huge key to his success," catcher Chris Iannetta said of Freeland, who is now 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 37 strikeouts over his last five starts.
What he lacked in efficiency, needing 99 pitches to get through six innings, Freeland made up for in determination when he was on the ropes in the fifth inning.
As David Fletcher's RBI single rolled up the middle, Freeland flipped his foot in the direction of the hard grounder before turning away in apparent disgust as the Angels scored their only run off the lefty.
With Michael Trout at the plate next, bringing the potential of more offense while representing the go-ahead run, Freeland needed four pitches to strike out the two-time MVP looking on a fastball up in the strike zone.
"It was supposed to be a backdoor slider [to Fletcher] and I was struggling with it all night and he was able to put a barrel on it and go back up the middle," Freeland said. "But when things like that happen, you have to turn the page immediately. You can't change anything or do anything about it, so you have to look to the next batter."
Freeland (12-7) gave up his one run on five hits, with two walks and six strikeouts. Already with the best ERA among National League left-handed starters, Freeland dropped that number a few more points to 2.90.
While pitchers like Jacob deGrom, Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer might have better raw numbers in the NL Cy Young chase, Freeland's leverage comes from a 2.27 ERA in 12 starts at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
"If you're going to dish it out and say that the hitters don't get MVP votes because they play in Coors and it's tainted, then pitchers should get a bonus for doing that, I would think," Iannetta said. "A sub-3.00 ERA, giving us a chance to win every time out. … He can't do any more than he does. He's a top-three Cy Young vote getter if I'm voting, for sure."
Despite a team off-day Wednesday, Freeland's next outing still is expected to take place in five days, which is Sunday in the finale of a four-game series down the freeway in San Diego.
The Rockies jumped out to a quick start Tuesday, as Charlie Blackmon doubled off Noe Ramirez -- who was back on the mound after recording the save for the Angels on Monday night -- to open the game. Carlos Gonzalez crushed a home run deep to right field two batters later. It was Gonzalez's 15th of the season and first since Aug. 3.
But the Angels' bullpen got to work from there, with right-hander Taylor Cole handling the bulk of the load. Cole, who was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake earlier Tuesday, gave up just one hit over three scoreless innings.
The Rockies were able to add an insurance run in the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly from Ian Desmond.
The run proved vital when the Angels got one back in the eighth inning on a deep sacrifice fly from Jose Pujols off right-hander Scott Oberg. Trout also hit a fly ball to the warning track in the inning.
Wade Davis pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 36th save by striking out the side, including pinch-hitter Shohei Ohtani for the second out.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Trevor Story showed once again that he is the complete package, by helping to manufacture an important insurance run in the seventh. He reached base with a hard smash that rebounded off the foot of Angels first baseman Jefry Marte. Story then stole second, went to third on a Gerardo Parra fly ball and scored on Desmond's sac fly.
"Trevor can play the complete game, as we know, both sides too," manager Bud Black said. "That was big with the stolen base and [getting] to third base and then Desi had a good at-bat. That was a well-pitched game by both sides."
If giving your team the chance to win is the goal, Freeland is more than doing his job, as the Rockies are 10-1 over his last 11 starts. He has a 5-1 record in that span, with a 2.32 ERA and 61 strikeouts. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last seven starts, as well as 13 of his last 14 outings.
HE SAID IT
"My slider was really big. Here at sea level, there was quite a bit of moisture in the air and I had trouble back-dooring it tonight just because of the size it was. I wasn't able to keep it really tight. But other than that, the fastball was working great and Chris and I were on the same page." -- Freeland, on beating the Angels without his full complement of pitches
After Wednesday's off-day, right-hander German Marquez will open a four-game series at San Diego against the Padres, starting at 8:10 p.m. MT. Marquez has given up two earned runs or less in five of his last sixt starts, including a scoreless seven innings against the Cardinals on Saturday. The Padres are expected to activate left-hander Eric Lauer off the disabled list to start opposite Marquez.