SAN DIEGO -- Score one for the Class of 2016.
In a matchup of two pitchers drafted eighth overall, two years apart, a quality start wasn’t good enough for Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland on Friday night at Petco Park. Right-hander Cal Quantrill answered with zeros for seven innings to propel the Padres to a 7-1 victory, handing the Rockies their fourth straight defeat.
Though they throw from opposite sides, the two starting pitchers have some commonalities. Freeland, 26, was the No. 8 pick in 2014 and reached the big leagues three years later. Quantrill, 24, went No. 8 in 2016 and arrived in the big leagues three years later -- this season.
Both enjoyed success as rookies. From that point, Quantrill’s story has yet to be penned. Freeland’s tale includes a 17-win sophomore season and a fourth-place finish in the National League Cy Young Award voting. Season three has been one of adversity: a 3-10 record, 7.06 ERA and a six-week stint in the Minors.
Given that, his quality start Friday suffices as reason for optimism, even if it came via the minimum standards of the stat -- six innings pitched, three runs allowed. It was Freeland’s second quality start among his six outings since he rejoined the big league rotation on July 13.
“I think we did a good job of hitting spots and getting weak contact,” Freeland said.
Rockies manager Bud Black, a former big league lefty himself who maintains the eagle eye of a pitching coach, sees Freeland as a pitcher moving in the right direction. The midseason trip to the Minors was needed because Freeland’s mechanics had gotten out of whack, and he has continued to make adjustments from start to start, with bullpen sessions between starts taking greater urgency than usual.
“It’s hard because you’re trying to win a Major League game and along the way, you’re trying to work on things,” Black said. “That’s not ideal. But the time in Triple-A, I think, laid a foundation for some of the things he has to do moving forward.
“Coming back, he’s competing and trying to win each game with what he needs to do each night. With that, there’s a foundation of pitching principles he’s working through. And I think we’re seeing it.
“We’re seeing the fastball command a little better, to both sides of the plate. Most pitches are down. When he goes in and up, he’s getting the ball there. I think we’re all seeing some progress on some of the things all of us had identified, including Kyle.”
A 1-2-3 first inning was Freeland’s only clean frame as he allowed eight hits and walked two while striking out three. Fernando Tatis Jr. touched him for a two-run double in the third, and Wil Myers had an RBI single in the fifth.
Freeland also induced two double-play grounders. And he was stout in his final inning, stranding two runners while taking his fastball up a notch to 93-94 mph.
“Things are feeling much better in my delivery, pitch mix, things like that,” he said. “Things definitely feel like they’re moving forward right now.”
Freeland is trying to move forward to where that kid from the Class of 2016 is now -- at the top of his game. Quantrill’s seven innings were a career high as he allowed only five singles and no walks.
“He had a pretty good runner [fastball] going tonight, and it seemed like he was able to get off our barrel,” Rockies first baseman Daniel Murphy said.
After committing three errors in the series opener, the Rockies cleaned things up Friday and got a solid effort from their starting pitcher. But Quantrill shut down the offense, and the Padres put the game away with a four-run eighth inning against Scott Oberg, who hadn’t allowed a run since July 21.
The Rockies have lost 18 of 24 games and are 2 1/2 games south of the Padres in the National League West basement.
“Everybody’s frustrated,” Murphy said. “If we pitch, then we don’t hit. If we hit, then we struggle to pitch. We’ve had a tough time getting on the same page with everything. But nobody’s going to feel sorry for you in this league, so we’ve got to keep going.”