DENVER -- The Rockies offered a textbook lesson in the new formula for success at Coors Field Saturday night, authored by Denver native Kyle Freeland. Colorado combined excellent pitching with timely hitting and solid defense to secure a 4-2 victory over the Dodgers and even the series. The win extended the Rockies' lead over L.A. in the National League West to 1 1/2 games, and gave them a 2 1/2-game lead over the D-backs, who lost to Atlanta.
Freeland notched his team-best 14th win, holding the Dodgers to a lone run on four hits and two walks while striking out eight in his six innings. After losing the series opener Friday night, there may have been pressure on Freeland to turn the Rockies' fortunes around quickly, but as comfortable as he looked shutting down a powerhouse lineup, it was hard to apply the concept of "pressure" to the Colorado kid.
"Our group plays at a high level of intensity," Rockies manager Bud Black said, noting that his team approaches games the same way whether it's March, May or September. "They embrace -- your word -- pressure. They want to be in the situation. But we can't do anything different. We have to play at a nice even keel with intensity and fire and poise. Kyle did that. He kept his delivery. Made pitches with the fastball. Good slider. Mixed in some changeups to keep them off balance. He pitched outstanding."
Freeland avoided the first-inning pitfalls that have haunted Rockies starters throughout the season by being aggressive on the mound, throwing first-pitch strikes to 16 of the first 18 batters he faced, giving his purple-pinstriped teammates the chance to score first.
"You want to get ahead early and often," Freeland said. "It immediately puts them in a hole, and it makes them change their mentality. That's big as a pitcher, getting that first strike and getting it often."
Chris Iannetta cashed in on the opportunity Freeland provided, launching a leadoff solo shot in the third inning. David Dahl contributed to the run tally by hustling a base hit to right into a double in the fourth, then scoring from second on Ian Desmond's single to right in the next at-bat.
Freeland's only blemish was a leadoff homer to center from Chris Taylor in the fifth inning.
"We did a good job of keeping them off-balance and keeping them in the rocking chair," Freeland said. "Fastball and slider were very good, backdoor wasn't as great as it should be, but we were able to use the changeup and the curveball and keep them off-balance, using our entire arsenal. Having it all on was great. I only made one mistake, hanging a slider to Taylor."
The Rockies responded to Taylor's homer with a two-run rally in the bottom of the inning. Iannetta notched his second extra-base hit in as many at-bats with a double to left, then came home when Charlie Blackmon drove a towering two-run blast into the right-field seats.
After six innings and 100 pitches, Freeland gave way to Scott Oberg and Adam Ottavino, who entered from the bullpen to shut down the Dodgers for two innings. After yielding a two-out triple to center from Cody Bellinger and a double to right from Player Page for Max Muncy, closer Wade Davis recorded his NL-best and career-high 39th save.
"You do expect to put up runs in this ballpark," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "The way Kyle threw the ball, it doesn't matter where you're playing. He really has good command and confidence pitching here. We still have to get base runners to stress the pitcher and get that big hit."
Freeland become just the fourth Rockies pitcher ever to record 20 quality starts in a season, joining Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Marquis and Jason Jennings. He improved to 8-2 at home and lowered his Coors Field ERA to 2.21.
"Being home amps me up," Freeland said of pitching in front of a big crowd in the city where he grew up. "It gets me real excited, because I want to make Denver proud. You can feel the fans are really getting into it, especially September baseball."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Left out: After Freeland exited and the right-handed Oberg came on for the seventh, the Dodgers flipped their all-right-handed lineup and brought in four left-handed power hitters off the bench in Alex Verdugo, Bellinger, Muncy, and Joc Pederson. Oberg responded by striking out the side with a one-out walk to Bellinger mixed in to silence the big bats.
"We've seen that from Scotty since his return -- he's pitched with a lot of confidence," Black said. "Fastball has very good location. He got the slider down underneath Muncy for the strikeout also. The high fastball to Pederson. Scotty's pitched very well. He's an integral part of what we've got going on in the back end of the bullpen."
With his third inning solo homer, Iannetta became the first Rockies catcher with four seasons of 10 or more home runs. He hit 16 in 2008, 15 in '09, 14 in '11, and has 10 this season. Wilin Rosario had three seasons with 10 or more, including the best-ever mark for a Rockies catcher with 27 in '12.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
DJ LeMahieu recorded his 1,000th career hit with a first inning single. All but 15 of his hits came as a Rockie, following his trade from the Cubs. There are seven players with more hits while playing for the Rockies, led by Todd Helton (2,519), Larry Walker, Carlos Gonzalez, Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Troy Tulowitzki, and Blackmon, who got his 1,000th career hit in August.
Left-hander Tyler Anderson gets the call for Sunday's series finale with the Dodgers, facing Rich Hill at 1:10 p.m. MT. Anderson rebounded from being knocked out in the first frame of his previous start to pitch 5 1/3 innings Monday against the Giants, allowing three runs on six hits and no walks. He was crisp down in the zone with an especially effective changeup.