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Freeland dazzles in debut as Rox down LA

MLB.com

DENVER -- Kyle Freeland grew up 25 minutes from Coors Field in Denver's Hampden Heights neighborhood hoping someday to pitch there. But the first time he was invited to pitch there, the Colorado Futures Game when he graduated Thomas Jefferson High, he passed.

"Me and my friends had planned a senior trip down to Mexico," he said. "I knew I had more baseball coming."

Full Game Coverage

DENVER -- Kyle Freeland grew up 25 minutes from Coors Field in Denver's Hampden Heights neighborhood hoping someday to pitch there. But the first time he was invited to pitch there, the Colorado Futures Game when he graduated Thomas Jefferson High, he passed.

"Me and my friends had planned a senior trip down to Mexico," he said. "I knew I had more baseball coming."

Full Game Coverage

It came Friday. Freeland, a left-handed pitcher, made his debut for the hometown Rockies and struck out six -- including four straight -- and held the Dodgers to one run and four hits in six innings of a 2-1 victory in his Major League debut before a sellout crowd of 46,169 for the Rockies' Coors Field opener.

The Rockies' top pick in 2014 out of the University of Evansville, Freeland -- who arranged for 26 tickets but had a city full of support -- had to control his nerves. A hit and two walks, with several close pitches, loaded the bases in the first, but Freeland forced a Yasmani Grandal grounder.

Video: LAD@COL: Freeland escapes bases-loaded jam

Freeland, 23, fanned four straight over the second and third, and was at his best during an eight-pitch fifth.

"I was trying to play it cool, but the butterflies were jumping around in my stomach," said Freeland, who came to the field early to soak in the moment and try to calm down. "I tried to stay focused on what I needed to do. After I got out of that first inning with that bases-loaded jam, I was able to settle right in a groove. I knew how my pitches were working."

Rockies manager Bud Black said, "I thought all day that Kyle was in a good spot, before the game talking to him and walking around the clubhouse. He looked good. I know he wasn't calm, but he looked calm."

Catcher Dustin Garneau, who caught several of Freeland's starts last year at Triple-A Albuquerque, helped his pitcher with a fifth-inning leadoff homer off Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Video: LAD@COL: Garneau slugs solo home run off foul pole

Ryu struck out five but gave up six hits and left after throwing 77 pitches in 4 2/3 innings. The Dodgers, whose chance at a big first inning ended when Grandal grounded out with the bases loaded and two down, scored their run in the fourth; Scott Van Slyke led off with a double and scored on a groundout.

Dodgers encouraged by Ryu's start

The Dodgers, who went 22-24 last year against left-handed starting pitchers, are already 0-2 this year.

"It's one of those things where until we change it, yeah, it's going to be the talk," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "At some point, it does become mental. Right now, we've seen two, so it's not there yet. I think last year it was a topic of conversation that came up quite often."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Managing a little something: The Rockies' stated goal of aggressive running backfired in the first, but they managed a run against Ryu. Charlie Blackmon led off by reaching on a third-strike wild pitch, but Dodgers catcher Grandal immediately erased him on a steal attempt. However, DJ LeMahieu and Carlos Gonzalez singled, and Nolan Arenado's double pushed a run across. The Rockies also lost a runner at the plate in the second, when Stephen Cardullo attempted to score on Blackmon's first-and-third grounder. Dodgers first baseman Van Slyke forced Blackmon out before throwing home.

Video: LAD@COL: Van Slyke gets Cardullo at home for DP

Just when it started getting hairy ... With Rockies bullpen mainstays Adam Ottavino, Mike Dunn and Greg Holland needing a rest, Scott Oberg walked eighth-inning leadoff hitter Adrian Gonzalez before demonstrating why he may be ready for consistent duty after bouncing between the Majors and Triple-A Albuquerque the last two years. Oberg, using a solid slider-fastball combination, fanned Justin Turner before coaxing a double-play grounder from Yasiel Puig.

Lefty Jake McGee, last year's closer before a knee injury limited his availability and effectiveness, earned the save in the ninth.

Video: LAD@COL: McGee fans Seager to seal the Rockies' win

QUOTABLE
"Normal baseball. ... The bullpen has been unbelievable. Starters have all made good outings. It's usually our offense carrying us, but we sure haven't been carrying the team. It's been the pitchers, so it's good to see."
-- LeMahieu. The top three hitters in the lineup -- Blackmon, LeMahieu and Carlos Gonzalez -- are a combined 8-for-58, but the Rockies are 4-1.

"You keep running them out there."
-- Roberts, on his lineup approach against future opposing lefties.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Before Freeland's start, the last pitcher to make his Major League debut in a his team's home opener in the state in which he was born was Chuck Dobson, a Kansas City native who started April 19, 1966 for the Kansas City Athletics against the Minnesota Twins.

The Rockies, who won 2-1 at Milwaukee on Thursday, had won consecutive games by that score just once in their history: April 28-29, 1995 at Houston.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Dodgers challenged a call in the bottom of the fifth inning with runners on first and second and no outs after Blackmon was ruled out at second by umpire Gary Cederstrom on a fielder's choice grounder by LeMahieu. Upon review, the call was overturned and Blackmon was ruled to have failed to make a legal slide as he intentionally initiated contact with second baseman Logan Forsythe by grabbing the fielder's leg. Additionally, the runner's actions hindered and impeded the fielder, making LeMahieu out on a double play, with Freeland being returned to second base.

Video: LAD@COL: Dodgers awarded DP after call overturned

CELEBRATING WITH A LITTLE GLOVE LOVE
During a pregame ceremony, Arenado received his fourth National League Gold Glove Award and the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award. As if to set a standard for all challengers, during the third inning -- with a runner at second -- he dove left to grab a hard Puig grounder and made a twirling throw to first.

Video: LAD@COL: Arenado makes nice diving stop, strong throw

WHAT'S NEXT
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw tackles Coors Field -- where he's had the kind of success one might expect from Kershaw, with an 8-3 career record -- when the Dodgers and Rockies continue their series on Saturday at 5:10 p.m. PT.

Rockies: Righty Jon Gray fanned seven in four innings on Opening Day in Milwaukee, then gave up five runs without recording an out in the fifth. But on Saturday, he'll face the Dodgers at Coors Field -- where he was 7-2 with a 4.30 ERA last year. Game time is 6:10 p.m. MT.

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

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.