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Freeland bit by home run ball, lack of support

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Over two starts, Rockies left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland has thrown 181 pitches. But because four were knocked over the fence, he has two losses to show for otherwise solid efforts.

With no safety net because of shutout work by Braves starter Sean Newcomb for six-plus innings, and the bullpen for the rest, Freeland gave up three runs -- two on solo homers -- in a 4-0 loss at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon.

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DENVER -- Over two starts, Rockies left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland has thrown 181 pitches. But because four were knocked over the fence, he has two losses to show for otherwise solid efforts.

With no safety net because of shutout work by Braves starter Sean Newcomb for six-plus innings, and the bullpen for the rest, Freeland gave up three runs -- two on solo homers -- in a 4-0 loss at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon.

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Freeland gave up seven hits in six innings and struck out five against two walks. But two of the hits were consecutive home runs by Nick Markakis and Dansby Swanson. In Freeland's last start, at San Diego, he was charged with four runs in 5 1/3 innings, but the only runs that scored with him in the game were two of Christian Villanueva's three home runs that night.

Video: ATL@COL: Swanson hits back-to-back homer in 5th

Freeland matter-of-factly counted a Ozzie Albies ground-rule, RBI double in Sunday's fifth inning among his pitches to lament.

"That's kind of been the story over the last two starts -- it's come down to four or five pitches, really," Freeland said. "They're mistakes. Those two pitches were left over the plate, and they put good swings on them."

Putting Freeland's work into perspective, he has, for the most part, spotted his fastball, slider and cutter. Two fastballs sailed over the wall on Sunday, and it was a changeup and a slider in his last start. The changeup, a potentially good pitch, still is too firm -- sometimes just 5-7 mph slower than the fastball.

What counts for manager Bud Black is that Freeland, who tied with teammate German Marquez for the National League lead in rookie wins last year with 11, is clear-headed about what's going right and what isn't.

"We saw a lot of maturity last year from Kyle, and Kyle will continue to understand that his game is down," Black said. "Get the ball inside, at times elevated, but not many pitchers can live at the top of the zone.

"I'm not concerned about Kyle losing confidence or anything of that nature."

Video: ATL@COL: Black on getting shutout by the Braves

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
They had their chance:
The Rockies had three first-inning hits and had no idea they would manage so little off Newcomb. But with two on, Newcomb froze Ian Desmond on a 1-2 fastball on the upper-outside quadrant. Desmond gave plate umpire Tony Randazzo a questioning look, but strike-zone imaging showed that Randazzo was not out of line on the borderline pitch. It was the first of 16 straight Newcomb would retire. Newcomb struck out nine and gave up five hits in six-plus innings, and Shane Carle forced an Desmond double-play grounder and a Gerardo Parra fly ball after Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story opened the seventh with singles against Newcomb.

Newcomb (1-1) displayed a solid fastball and curve in two starts against the Rockies last season, and on Sunday augmented that with an effective changeup.

"His fastball is kind of heavy, he was locating pretty good, his changeup, he was keeping it down," Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu said. "We just couldn't get much going off him."

It's the little things: The game was scoreless when Ender Inciarte drew a two-out walk from Freeland, then alertly stole second. Albies followed with a ground-rule double, allowing Inciarte to score the game's first run.

Video: ATL@COL: Albies gives Braves the lead with a double

Albies homered in the seventh off Chris Rusin.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
It was the Braves' first shutout at Coors Field since April 14, 1997, when future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine threw a complete game in the 14-0 victory.

BATS NOT SHOWING UP
In dropping 2-of-3 in the Coors Field-opening series, the Rockies managed just six runs, and on Sunday barely threatened after the three-hit first inning against Newcomb.

"There are times when a guy pitches a really good game; I think we saw that today," Black said. "He was locating the fastball. He had a devastating changeup and he was mixing his curveball."

LeMahieu was in no mood for panic with a .500 record after 10 games.

"It's not the best we've played, for sure, over the past couple of years, but I feel like we've played pretty well," he said. "I know we have a really good team and we're about to get hot here at some point."

On Sunday, LeMahieu (1-for-4) hit leadoff and catcher Chris Iannetta (0-for-4) celebrated his 35th birthday by batting second, usually LeMahieu's spot. Usual leadoff man Charlie Blackmon, who left Saturday night's 3-2, 10-inning Rockies victory, "might have been available" if Sunday's game had been a marathon, Black said.

Video: Black discusses Blackmon's back injury

DAHL SITS
Triple-A Albuquerque outfielder David Dahl sat out the last two games, after driving in four runs in a 3-for-5 night with a double Friday in a victory over Salt Lake, but it's not for the reason that some are speculating.

"I have a little stomach virus -- feeling better today, and hopefully will be in there tomorrow," Dahl said Sunday evening.

His absence sparked speculation that the Rockies ordered him held out of the lineup to determine what was happening with Blackmon's back. Dahl -- who hit .315 with seven homers in 63 Major League games in his 2016 debut but didn't appear in the Majors last season because of a rib issue -- said Blackmon was not connected to his absence from the Isotopes' lineup. Of course, he could be among the Rockies' options if he becomes healthy and Blackmon's injury lingers.

Dahl said he is "feeling good at the plate." Now he has to feel better away from it, so to speak.

WHAT'S NEXT
Rockies righty Jon Gray (1-1, 2.45 ERA) enjoys the strategy battle, and he has one. Five days ago, he held the Padres scoreless through seven innings on four hits, with seven strikeouts and no walks. He faces the Padres and lefty Clayton Richard (0-1, 4.50) again Monday at Coors Field at 6:40 p.m.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

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