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Freeland stellar in 7 shutout, backed by Story slam

Left-hander records first victory since last July
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland endured a long, and at times remedial, education before graduating back into the win column Tuesday night.

Freeland had gone 12 starts -- 16 appearances -- without a win before buzzing the Padres on three hits over seven innings of an 8-0 victory on another cold night at Coors Field.

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DENVER -- Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland endured a long, and at times remedial, education before graduating back into the win column Tuesday night.

Freeland had gone 12 starts -- 16 appearances -- without a win before buzzing the Padres on three hits over seven innings of an 8-0 victory on another cold night at Coors Field.

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Trevor Story's second-inning grand slam was part of a seven-run barrage in the first three innings of Padres rookie lefty Eric Lauer's Major League career. And Freeland (1-3), who had many highs as a rookie (and Denver native) last season -- but last tasted victory on July 30 -- made it stand as the Rockies notched their second shutout of the season.

"I didn't know that was the day, but looking back, yeah that seems like a long time ago," Freeland said.

Video: SD@COL: Freeland gets hit on comebacker, nabs Headley

The victory brought the Rockies back above .500 at 13-12, but it was just their second win in the last six games and fourth in 11 home games.

However, the possibility of young starters (like Freeland) seeing it all come together is one of many reasons the Rockies believe they can take off, if they simply keep their heads above water through tough times. Freeland set the tone with a six-pitch first inning -- after Rox starters had given up first-inning runs each of the four previous games of the homestand -- and an 11-pitch second.

"I really liked, today, the aggressiveness from the onset -- early pitch count effectiveness," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "[Freeland] attacked with the fastball, attacked with the slider."

Freeland breezed on the scoresheet, but there was pain. Chase Headley's fourth-inning smash caromed off his left heel. Freeland retrieved the ball to make the play at first base, but pitched the rest of the game in pain. Black said he thought the pain actually helped Freeland's delivery. Freeland agreed, even while smarting -- and enduring training-room jokes about having someone smash his heel before every game he pitches.

"I guess you can attribute that to ... thinking more about my heel than my mechanics," Freeland said. "It kind of helped me, I guess."

In his last two starts, Freeland threw 101 pitches in 5 2/3 innings of a no-decision at Washington, and 91 in four innings of a loss at Pittsburgh. One issue was his inability to work both sides of the plate.

A top Rockies Draft pick in 2014 out of the University of Evansville, Freeland had a quick rise to the Majors because of his ability to challenge right-handed hitters inside. However, he has had issues spotting pitches down and out, which limited his ability to finish off counts.

But on Tuesday, Freeland threw enough strikes there to keep hitters guessing. He finished off two strikeouts and forced a fly ball low and out, and was able to use that area to control the count, as Statcast™ showed.

Tweet from @harding_at_mlb: #Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland threw seven innings with no runs and eight strikeouts. And he got balls arm side, specifically outside against righty hitters. He had two strikeouts, two groundouts and numerous strikes to righties in that location. It had been a problem. Tonight? No. pic.twitter.com/fij9Et8GWq

"He was just pitching to both sides of the plate -- sometimes he sticks to one, but he dominated with his fastball, simple as that," the Padres' Austin Hedges said.

Freeland said he concentrated less on the arm side and the speed changes, but his fastball and slider to the glove side were so effective that he was able to hit the other side.

"Off that, going glove side it helps my mechanics to be correct going glove side, and it just opened up the outer half for me for arm-side pitches," he said.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Scoring position isn't really scoring position, unless you score: It happened just twice. Hedges and Lauer each singled with one out in the third, but Freeland quickly put down the threat with a Manuel Margot liner to left and one of his three strikeouts of Franchy Cordero, whose go-ahead home run Monday ignited a nine-run seventh inning and a 13-5 victory.

Freeland also fanned Cordero with runners at second and third in the fifth, courtesy of one of his two walks and Margot's two-out double.

Answering the call: Outfielders David Dahl and Noel Cuevas, called up Sunday as the Rockies deal with Carlos Gonzalez's right hamstring injury and Gerardo Parra's suspension (which ends after Wednesday's game), each contributed. Cuevas delivered his first Major League hit in the second, off Lauer. He slipped rounding first to cost himself a double, but eventually scored on DJ LeMahieu's single.

Video: SD@COL: Cuevas records first Major League hit

Dahl came through with a triple and scored on Ian Desmond's single in the fifth, both against Adam Cimber.

SOUND SMART
In keeping with the Rockies' season of awful weather, the game started (after a 46-minute delay) with a temperature of 37 degrees. It actually was a degree warmer at the end.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
A 6-5-3 double play seems odd, since the third baseman (5) rarely covers second and getting the flip from the shortstop (6) is irregular, but that's what happens in these days of extreme infield shifts. But to end Tuesday's ninth inning, with Headley batting, star third baseman Nolan Arenado took the throw from Story, then imitated the shortstop with a 360-degree turn before firing to first.

Video: SD@COL: Story, Arenado turn game-ending DP

"I don't think I've seen that, but if anybody's going to do it, it's him," Story said. "We practice those plays all the time. We practice them in Spring Training. We do a lot of communicating before the pitch, so we kind of knew how it was going to happen.

"He's pretty nifty out there, as everybody knows. He can pretty much do anything on the baseball field."

UP NEXT
Slumping righty Jon Gray (1-4, 7.09 ERA) must find his put-away slider when he faces the Padres in the rubber game Wednesday. Historically, Gray's slider has been a reliable out pitch; however, his swing-and-miss rate is the lowest for sliders in the Majors, and he has allowed a .385 batting average on it when ahead in the count. Gray will face righty Tyson Ross (2-1, 2.81), with first pitch set for 1:10 p.m. MT.

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

Colorado Rockies, Kyle Freeland