Rocktober once more: Rox secure playoff spot
Dahl homers in fifth straight game to cap scoring for Colorado
DENVER -- Friday was a crowning night for homegrown pitcher Kyle Freeland and continued the coming-out party for homegrown slugger David Dahl. Combined with some veteran friends, they brought home the Rockies' second straight postseason berth.
Freeland grinded through six innings and held the Nationals to two runs, and Dahl homered in his fifth straight game as the Rockies won, 5-2, before a Coors Field sellout crowd of 48,084 that bought tickets for fireworks but witnessed a rare celebration.
The Rockies -- winners of a season-high eight straight, with a magic number of 2 to clinch their first National League West title in their 26 seasons -- are visiting the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time in club history.
"It's incredible; I dreamt of this as a little kid," said Freeland, born in Denver on May 14, 1993 -- a little over a month after the Rockies played their inaugural game. "But work's not done. We've still got two more games and looking to take the division out of that."
The Rockies, who lead the Dodgers by one game in the NL West race, were set up for the clinch when the Cardinals lost to the Cubs, 8-4, on Friday afternoon. If they secure the division title, they will begin the postseason on Thursday against the NL East champion Braves. If they fall short and instead earn a Wild Card berth, they will play Tuesday at the home of the NL Central runner-up, with the winner of that game facing the NL Central champion in the NLDS.
Should Colorado and Los Angeles finish the regular season tied atop the NL West, they would play a tiebreaker game at Dodger Stadium on Monday. The winner of that game would be the division champion, and the loser would be the second Wild Card.
• Shop Rockies postseason gear
In the Rockies' clubhouse, disco lights flashed and there was champagne and beer. The celebration and interviews were broadcast to fans still in the park awaiting fireworks. But the scene wasn't wild. Many of the players ended up jamming into the coaches' dressing room to watch the Dodgers-Giants game (an eventual 3-1 L.A. victory).
Besides, the Rockies are scheduled to face Nationals star righty Stephen Strasburg on Saturday night, and -- if the game matters -- could be facing the winner of the last two NL Cy Young Awards, Max Scherzer, on Sunday.
"This is not done yet," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Our guys are aware what's going on."
• What's next for Rockies over final two games
Freeland (17-7), a Thomas Jefferson High School graduate and the Rockies' first-round pick in 2014, pitched around 11 hits and escaped two bases-loaded situations.
Freeland worked a 1-2-3 double play from Nationals pitcher Joe Ross with the bases loaded to end the second, and fanned Mark Reynolds with the bases juiced again in the third.
"You never want bases loaded because one swing of the bat can change the entire game -- four runs can hurt you and take a lot of confidence out," Freeland said. "But we just stuck to our game plan and my strengths."
The only runs came on Trea Turner's fourth-inning, two-out triple. Freeland finished his 33 starts with a 2.85 ERA -- lowest for a left-handed pitcher with enough innings to qualify for the NL ERA title. Additionally, his 2.40 home ERA is a club record.
Dahl -- a top pick in 2012 whose promise has been slowed only by injuries at the Minor and Major League levels -- joined Dante Bichette, Larry Walker and current teammate Nolan Arenado as the only Rockies to go deep in at least five straight games. Arenado owns the team record, six, Sept. 1-5, 2015.
Before then, a parade of veterans led the Rockies.
Charlie Blackmon parked a solo shot in the second, a blow that gave him hits in 19 of his last 20 games. Blackmon, with 28 homers this season, gave the Rockies an important lead. They are 54-16 when scoring first.
Ian Desmond added a two-run shot in the fifth, followed by Chris Iannetta's solo blast. The Blackmon, Desmond and Iannetta homers came off Ross. Dahl's homer was the aloha for Nats lefty reliever Sammy Solis, who exited immediately.
"Kyle battled, and Charlie's home run got us the lead," Dahl said. "They took it back, but we got some great home runs later. It was a great team win."
Before the five games this week, the Rockies went through a nine-game NL West road trip with just one homer -- a Blackmon solo shot off Clayton Kershaw in a loss to the Dodgers. A three-game sweep of the D-backs, however, reset the Rox for a powerful final regular-season homestand. Dahl went deep in all four games against the Phillies and kept his run going against the Nats, and teammates have found the power.
"I just had that premonition that we were going to start popping the ball," Black said. "I wish I could explain it, why I felt that. But our guys, from Arizona, I thought we were taking better swings. I thought it would carry over when we got home, and it sure did."
The Rockies' last win streak this long (eight games) was April 12-20, 2013.
HE SAID IT
"I'm about what's happening now." -- Black, on this being the first time the Rockies have managed two straight postseason trips
Does Rockies right-hander Jon Gray (12-8, 4.91 ERA) have his groove back? Gray, after three poor starts and after being skipped, threw seven solid innings while beating the Phillies on Monday night. Now he faces the Nationals and righty Stephen Strasburg (9-7, 3.77) on Saturday night at 6:10 MT.