Rodgers' bat eases sting of Freeland's injury

September 1st, 2021

ARLINGTON -- made Wednesday hurt a little less for the Rockies.

Lefty , who had shined to the tune of a 2.57 ERA in his previous 12 starts, left with a left hip impingement after walking the leadoff batter of the second inning, and the team immediately plunged into a five-run deficit.

But after Rodgers homered in the fourth inning to get the Rockies on the board, he delivered a two-run double in the ninth inning to put them ahead en route to a 9-5 comeback victory at Globe Life Field. And with Freeland's removal deemed precautionary, Rodgers and the Rockies could feel even better about the victory.

The winning result completed a tough road trip and a painful day. After taking two of three at Dodger Stadium, the Rockies lost on Monday and Tuesday by twin 4-3 scores to the Rangers, who occupy the American League West cellar. The struggles in Texas assured the Rockies of a losing road trip (4-5) as part of an 18-50 away campaign.

“We needed to win that game after the last two nights,” Rodgers said. “We were chipping away throughout the whole game. We obviously wish there was a different outcome for the first two games, but it was definitely big getting this win for the last game of the road trip.”

Freeland pitched an uneventful first inning, with a strikeout and a walk. There was no visible injury, but after Freeland walked Nathaniel Lowe on five pitches, he was visited by manager Bud Black and head athletic trainer Keith Dugger. He exited the game having thrown only 21 pitches. Justin Lawrence, fresh from Triple-A as rosters expanded, gave up Freeland’s runner, plus three runs on two hits and two walks. Ben Bowden yielded another run, and the Rangers had a 5-0 lead.

“He noticed warming up that he really couldn't push off the rubber and drive down the mound,” Black said. “He thought it might progressively get better as he got into his warmups and when he got into the game, with some adrenaline. But it never happened.”

Freeland’s injury came on the same day that the Rockies decided to place right-hander Jon Gray on the 10-day injured list with tightness in his right forearm. Gray left his previous start, against the Dodgers, after three innings because of pain in the forearm. On Tuesday, Gray threw a bullpen session and appeared to be a go for Thursday against the Braves. That changed on Wednesday.

But Bowden settled down after the third, and a parade of relievers -- with Robert Stephenson and Jhoulys Chacín eating two innings apiece -- kept the Rangers where they were. Rodgers, who has hit 11 homers during a rookie season that has established him as a key part of the Rockies’ future, and the offense brought a happier closure before the club’s Thursday return to Coors Field, where it is 43-22.

Rodgers went 8-for-34 on the road trip, but homered during a series at Wrigley Field and stung several balls hard during his 0-for-4 performance in the opener in Texas. Wednesday's homer and double were more indicative of the quality he has shown while hitting .281.

“My swing feels great,” Rodgers said. “I can’t really complain too much when you line out, or the guy runs the ball down when you hit the ball hard. You’ve just got to stay within yourself, within your approach. Those little things can be frustrating at times, but you’ve got to keep putting together solid at-bats.”

In the ninth, the Rockies were trailing, 5-4, before pinch-hitter Elias Díaz and Connor Joe (who reached on eight of his 13 plate appearances during the series) drew walks to set up Rodgers’ go-ahead double. The Rangers tied a club record with four errors in the inning, and first baseman Lowe set a club record with three in one inning -- two on one play.

After missing the early part of the season with an injured right hamstring, Rodgers batted .205 with no homers in his first 13 games. But starting with his first Major League home run on June 5, at home against the Athletics, Rodgers has hit .294 with 11 home runs (nine on the road), and posted an .865 OPS in 63 games.

The Rockies played themselves into a hole in April and May. But Rodgers’ emergence -- especially since the club established him in the second spot in the order -- is one of many reasons the Rockies are 42-38 since May 30.

The No. 3 overall pick by the Rockies out of high school in 2015, Rodgers, 25, was a longtime prospect who struggled during callups in 2019 and 2020.

“There was obviously a lot of hype around his big league career getting started in ‘19,” Black said. “In all fairness, he wasn't quite ready. There was a little bit of an issue with the shoulder that's been resolved. There was a little bit of an issue of facing big league pitching initially, with a little bit of pressure as a 22-year-old. So he’s in a really good spot.”