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Desmond, Blackmon homer as Rox stifle SF

May 19, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO -- On Friday night, Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond turned the clock back 12 days -- most of which were dark, offensively.Desmond launched a three-run homer in the fourth inning and an RBI double in the sixth, and Kyle Freeland went 6 2/3 innings for his fifth straight

SAN FRANCISCO -- On Friday night, Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond turned the clock back 12 days -- most of which were dark, offensively.
Desmond launched a three-run homer in the fourth inning and an RBI double in the sixth, and Kyle Freeland went 6 2/3 innings for his fifth straight quality start, as the Rockies beat the Giants, 6-1, at AT&T Park.
On May 6, Desmond homered twice during a 4-2 road victory over the Mets. From then until his first at-bat Friday -- a fielder's-choice grounder that led to Trevor Story being thrown out at the plate in the second -- Desmond was 3-for-34 with 13 strikeouts and two walks. With no true first-base alternative, all the booing and all the social posts couldn't excise him from manager Bud Black's lineup.
But with two swings, Desmond helped the Rockies improve to 3-1 on this road trip.
"It's something that we've seen, but not consistently from at-bat to at-bat, game to game," Black said. "But when he got hold of the fastball, his contact point was out front, resulted in a homer. The double, same thing."

It was more than a guy shaking off a slump for a night. The Rockies pulled to a half-game behind the slumping D-backs, who fell for the eighth time in the last nine games Friday (3-1 to the Mets), but nonetheless lead a National League West that is waiting for a team to surge.
"We're winning games, and as a team we're winning games," Desmond said. "That's great. It's going to be better when we're clicking on all cylinders but this is what gets you through those dog days, when you just find a way, scratch and claw, and a different guy every night."
And Desmond knows there is a world beyond the most vocal critics. The dugout celebration was partly an expression of how much teammates were pulling for Desmond to turn as hot as he has been cold.
"Someone texted me the other day, a friend of mine back in Washington said back in 2014 I was hitting .214 on yesterday's date, and I won a Silver Slugger that year," Desmond said. "Not only was there bad offense. There was terrible defense. Sometimes I just get in these funks, snap out of them.
"As happy as they were for me, I know they're equally as frustrated when I get out. I'm not only carrying the weight of myself. I'm carrying the weight of everyone else -- people here and everywhere else around the country that are rooting for me."
Periodic production from someone will do these days, and Desmond provided that with the homer and the double, both off Giants starter Derek Holland (2-5). For all his struggles, which include a .175 batting average, Desmond's seven homers and 21 RBIs both rank fourth on the team.

Charlie Blackmon's two-run shot off Jose Valdez in the top of the ninth, his team-high 12th homer, brought his RBI total to 23. All but one of Blackmon's homers have come on the road.
Before Desmond's homer, third baseman Nolan Arenado grabbed momentum in the bottom of the third with another standout defensive gem -- a sliding play to grab Kelby Tomlinson's hard grounder and a throw from his right knee, from foul ground, for the out at first base. Arenado also finished the inning by starting a double play, and started the threat that led to Desmond's homer in the next frame by drawing a walk.

Pitching has been a constant for the Rockies, however. Freeland (4-4), who has gone into the seventh each of his last five starts. Freeland gave up Gorkys Hernandez's first-inning leadoff homer. Freeland held the Giants to five hits, struck out five against one walk, and forced 11 groundouts with two double plays.
"You''ve got to be your own worst critic and your own best critic," Freeland said. "When you're good, you've got to look at where your mistakes are and learn from those and learn from your success. I'm on a little bit of a roll right now. I've got to stay where I am and do the things I've been doing in previous starts."

After Brandon Crawford's two-out single put runners at the corners with two down in the seventh, Black went to Bryan Shaw, who froze pinch-hitter Brandon Belt with a full-count, 97 mph cutter to hold a 4-1 lead.
"When Belt took that pitch, you know it had to be quality, with some life to it," Black said.

Hernandez's homer ended a couple of streaks for Freeland -- 12 1/3 innings without a run, since the Mets' two-run first on May 6; and 27 1/3 without a home run, since the Pirates' Sean Rodriguez went deep in the fourth inning on April 18. And, during the streak of five quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs), Freeland has a 1.59 ERA.
"I was having a rough day at the plate, but ran into one there at the end and maybe gave Wade [Davis, the Rockies' closer] another day of rest." -- Blackmon, who finished 1-for-5 and was 1-for-12 on the current road trip before the ninth-inning homer off Valdez
Rockies righty Jon Gray's last start was odd -- six runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings, but also 10 strikeouts, in a loss to the Brewers. His slider was the best it's been all season, but his fastball (eight hits) deserted him. He had given up just one run in 20 innings in his previous three starts. Gray (4-5, 4.85) hopes to rebound Saturday at 2:05 p.m. MT against the Giants and righty Chris Stratton (4-3, 4.88).

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