Freeland ejected, but not before stellar start

Lefty allows one unearned run over 6 innings in loss

July 25th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Rockies left-handed pitcher unleashed the old competitiveness, and returned to last year’s form, for six innings -- then spit some extra fire from the dugout for good measure Wednesday night.

With the season slipping away, Freeland gave the Rockies something to latch onto. The 2-0 loss to the Nationals meant Colorado not only absorbed a doubleheader sweep, but by dropping their 16th in their last 19 games, the Rockies tied the second-worst 19-game span in club history. It happened six other times.

Only the 2-17 malaise of 1993 expansion season was worse; and the minus-72 run differential during the stretch is the team’s worst since its first season. But at a time when the Rockies (47-54) are in the unwanted position of having a seller’s record but a team not built to sell at the July 31 deadline, the return of Freeland and his fire was the subject manager Bud Black enjoyed discussing.

Black was buoyant for a man who watched his team go 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position in the two games, with a 1-hour, 41-minute rain delay in between. Freeland gave up four hits, struck out four and limited the Nats to one unearned run in the first 2019 visit of his work in 2018 -- when he went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA for a postseason club.

“It’s a good sign moving forward for the next couple months,” Black said. “That was reminiscent of Kyle last year, making pitches, getting big outs. Hopefully, he can carry that over.”

Freeland’s night wasn’t done when he walked off the mound. Freeland, who snapped the ball into his glove and stared down home-plate umpire Jon Libka after a close call went against him in the sixth, earned an ejection in the top of the seventh for yelling at Libka from the dugout.

“I felt he was being very inconsistent with pitches back there, some that I made, some that [winning pitcher Patrick] Corbin made, and I finally just had enough of it,” Freeland said. “I think it helped fire up the dugout a little bit, try to get some production going.

“It obviously didn’t happen, but it was a nice try.”

With his last official act, Freeland displayed more fire than the Rockies mustered at any point in a game that saw them go 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Two of those dry at-bats came after David Dahl doubled off Sean Doolittle in the ninth.

Still, it was the first time Freeland (2-8) has lasted six innings in a Major League game since May 14 at Boston, when he gave up three runs in six innings of a no-decision in the Rockies’ 5-4 victory. By month’s end, he had pitched his way to spending a month and a half with Triple-A Albuquerque.

Thursday’s nightcap, which started after a 1-hour, 41-minute rain delay, began with a 32-pitch first inning that included Anthony Rendon’s 13-pitch at-bat that ended in a strikeout. But he threw just 73 pitches over the next five frames for a total of 109.

“After the second inning, I caught a groove and was able to fill up the zone with strikes, make quality pitches down in the zone, mix well and keep the hitters off balance,” Freeland said.

The only Nationals run that scored with Freeland on the mound came after Brian Dozier doubled with two out in the fourth inning and was followed by second baseman Garrett Hampson letting Victor Robles’ grounder scoot under his glove for an error. Freeland rebounded by striking out the side in the fifth and overcoming Rendon’s leadoff double in the sixth.

It was a performance Freeland expected to have with the team in the thick of the postseason hunt, not hunting for a life raft.

“We’ve still got a lot of baseball left,” Freeland said. “We know the caliber of team that we are and what we can accomplish. We’re striving for that. Right now, we’re grinding through some tough losses.”