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Freeland continues upward trend in Houston

@JesseSanchezMLB
August 18, 2020

The evolution of Kyle Freeland continued Monday in Houston. As has been the case all season, he mixed pitches well, throwing a steady dose of changeups, curveballs, sliders and fastballs in a 2-1 Rockies loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park. • Box score The left-hander threw 95 pitches

The evolution of Kyle Freeland continued Monday in Houston.

As has been the case all season, he mixed pitches well, throwing a steady dose of changeups, curveballs, sliders and fastballs in a 2-1 Rockies loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Box score

The left-hander threw 95 pitches in the six-inning outing -- 63 of which were strikes – but it was two close pitches that were called balls -- and his reaction to them -- that showed the most growth.

With his team trailing, 2-1, with one out in the sixth inning, Freeland jumped ahead of Astros shortstop Carlos Correa with a pair of strikes on his first two pitches. He followed with a couple of pitches near the strike zone and expressed frustration when they were called balls. Correa hit the next pitch, a slider in the vicinity of the two previous pitches, for a single to right field. Freeland was visibly upset, but he kept his composure. He struck out José Altuve, and Kyle Tucker lined out to right field for the final out of the frame.

He finished with five strikeouts in the loss.

“I kept my cool as much as I possibly could and I let a few words fly to the umpire, but I had to take a breath and realize there's still work to do,” Freeland said. “I can’t get thrown out of this game. That’s not right by me by my teammates. I had to keep going to finish that inning and hopefully build some momentum.”

A fired up Freeland showed some emotion on the way to the dugout. He would not face another hitter.

“The trick is to make sure that you can stay composed,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “You can show emotion in competition and still be able to focus and concentrate. There have been some great competitors who have shown the ability to express themselves.”

Black could not be more serious.

“John McEnroe, for one, comes to mind,” the manager said. “One of the best tennis players of all time, and Kyle has that ability to quickly turn the page and get back on track. I think it's great because it shows how much fire [Freeland] has, and on the other hand, it shows where he is maturity-wise, to be able to quickly turn the page and make pitches against a real good lineup.”

Correa tagged the left-hander with a two-run double in the first inning, but Freeland rallied to shut down the Houston offense the rest of the way. He adjusted on the fly, yet another sign of maturity. Freeland threw seven changeups in the first inning and the Astros swung and made contact on six them. The changeup has been his primary pitch this season, and while he did not abandon it, he threw more curveballs in the game after first inning.

Overall, the outing was Freeland’s fifth consecutive quality start to start the season, which tied him with Shawn Chacón (2003) for the second-longest streak to begin a season in franchise history. Ubaldo Jiménez set the record with 14 consecutive quality starts to open 2010.

“He wears his emotion on his sleeve a lot and that’s why he is good,” Rockies shortstop Trevor Story said of Freeland. “He’s always a competitor and super fiery on the mound. We love that and we love playing behind that.”

Story cut Houston’s lead to one run with a home run in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to nine games. The solo shot was the 130th homer of his career, which tied Story with Matt Holliday for 10th in franchise history. It was the Rockies’ only hit until a single by Charlie Blackmon to lead off the ninth.

“It hurts when [Freeland] goes out there and does his job and the bullpen does, too, but we couldn’t do what we needed to do offensively,” Story said. “It’s on us.”

Jesse Sanchez, who has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.