DENVER -- Riding another strong performance from rookie left-hander Kyle Freeland, and supplemented with an offensive outburst, the Rockies powered to a 13-3 victory on Sunday at Coors Field to clinch their first home series win over the Pirates since July 2014.
The Rockies batted through the order twice on Sunday, in the third and sixth innings, scattering homers from Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, pinch-hitting Pat Valaika and two from Mark Reynolds, while Nolan Arenado had three RBIs to pad his MLB lead to 86.
Pirates starter Ivan Nova was pegged for a season-high seven earned runs, five of which were the byproduct of pitches he left up in the zone. Not a trademark swing-and-miss pitcher -- he carried a 8.2 percent rate entering Sunday, sixth-lowest in MLB (min. 1,500 pitches thrown) -- Nova still managed five strikeouts to go with just one walk. But the nine hits he allowed over five-plus innings proved costly.
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"We knew that he was going to throw strikes," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "The first couple innings, both guys pitched well, held the other club down. But we stayed on it and then we broke through with a couple big swings obviously, but I liked our approach all day. I think we knew what we had going in from Nova. We had a nice plan, nice approach. We knew what he was going to throw."
Freeland turned in his seventh quality start at Coors Field in his ninth try, giving up just two earned runs in six innings with three strikeouts and two walks over a sizable 108 pitches to lower his home ERA to 3.21. Take away two poor starts in which he gave up a combined 11 earned runs, and the Denver native has a 1.91 home ERA.
"He's just a guy that seemed like he stayed out of the middle of the plate," said David Freese, who hit a home run off Freeland in the sixth. "It's a park that brings necessity to that. His offspeed [stuff] was working, kept us off-balance."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Some bite, no fight: The Rockies and Pirates got into a kerfuffle in Saturday's game after Chad Kuhl buzzed Carlos Gonzalez in the sixth. On Sunday, Nova hit DJ LeMahieu in the arm, but LeMahieu went to first base without taking issue. That loaded the bases for Arenado, however, who promptly ripped a single to give the Rockies a 3-0 lead. Arenado has been white hot with runners in scoring position this season as he entered Sunday with a .415/.469/.851 slash line in such situations.
Mercer rule: The Pirates' biggest rally came in the fourth inning when Freeland's sizzling command from his last two appearances seemed to wear off. Josh Harrison scored early in the inning after leading off with a double, and Mercer came to bat with the bases loaded following a Francisco Cervelli walk. But Mercer grounded out weakly to Story, ending the threat. Soon after, the Rockies turned the game into a rout, scoring seven runs in the sixth.
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"People say it feels different but I don't feel that way. When you miss, you miss." -- Nova, on pitching at Coors Field
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Of the 21 balls put in play against Freeland, in addition to fouls, he surrendered an average exit velocity of just 73.9 mph -- his lowest for a start this year -- continuing a promising trend for a pitcher who calls hitter-friendly Coors Field home. Freeland ranks among the MLB leaders in eliciting soft contact. With an average exit velocity against of 84.8 mph entering Sunday, the rookie left-hander ranks behind only Scott Feldman (83.8) and Clayton Kershaw (84.6) among those who have thrown at least 1,500 pitches.
Pirates:Gerrit Cole makes his first start since striking out a season-high 10 batters as the Pirates open up a series in San Francisco with the Giants. As the Bucs look to keep the pressure on the rest of the NL Central, this series begins a stretch of 19 straight games against teams currently under .500, including series with the Padres, Reds and Tigers. The Pirates will begin the stretch at 10:15 p.m. ET vs. Player Page for Matt Cain.
Rockies: The Rockies open a three-game series in St. Louis to wrap their regular season slate against the Cardinals. Rookie right-hander Antonio Senzatela will make his second start since rejoining the rotation after being out nearly four weeks to curb his innings. His lone start against St. Louis on May 26 at Coors Field was easily the best of his young career -- eight scoreless innings with just five hits and no walks on 98 pitches.
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