DENVER -- Kyle Freeland leaped out of the dugout with a smile splashed across his face and pointed at Ian Desmond, who was safe at first after Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford's errant throw.Desmond reached on an error that allowed the go-ahead run score, capping a three-run seventh inning for the
DENVER -- Kyle Freeland leaped out of the dugout with a smile splashed across his face and pointed at Ian Desmond, who was safe at first after Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford's errant throw.
Desmond reached on an error that allowed the go-ahead run score, capping a three-run seventh inning for the Rockies, whose 5-2 win over the Giants on Monday night was their fourth out of the past five games.
Freeland gave up a first-pitch homer to Giants center fielder Gorkys Hernandez, who has five homers in 11 games against Colorado this season, and an RBI double to Buster Posey. After working himself into a 2-0 deficit against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, Freeland (8-6) retired his last 13 batters and lowered his home ERA to 2.89 with 98 pitches in seven innings. It was his 11th quality start in his last 13 outings.
"You just have to go pitch by pitch, whatever happens, you have to turn the page," Freeland said. "It can't change what happens next. You have to keep moving forward."
After giving up the run in the third inning, Freeland calmly pitched his way through the next four innings, still in a 2-0 hole. So when the Rockies strung together three runs in the seventh, Freeland couldn't have been happier.
"I was just trying to be as positive as I could," Freeland said. "Knowing I was on the hook for the loss early in the game, I was just trying to be as positive as I could for my teammates to see what we could get going in that inning."
Rockies manager Bud Black said Freeland is learning when to be calm and poised and when to let loose.
"I love Kyle's emotion," Black said. "The aggressiveness that he pitches with and the fire that he plays with will never leave him, that's who he is."
The Rockies' offense came through, when Charlie Blackmon's infield single loaded the bases for Nolan Arenado, who drew a five-pitch walk from Giants reliever Reyes Moronta. Trevor Story grounded into a double play, which plated DJ LeMahieu, and Crawford's off-line throw on Desmond's grounder scored Blackmon to give the Rockies a 3-2 lead.
Monday's win was much needed for the Rockies, who are fighting to stay in contention before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Colorado is looking to bounce back after a rough June, when the Rockies went 11-16 and struggled through bad pitching -- a 6.20 team ERA coupled with a number of bad bullpen outings saw the Rockies drop from first in the National League West at the beginning of the month to fourth by the end.
But the Rockies are slowly climbing their way back. Since last Tuesday, Colorado starters are 3-0 with a 2.49 ERA in seven games. And Freeland, who pitched his fourth straight outing of two runs or fewer, on Monday, has been the leader of the rotation that is starting to find its legs.
"As a starting pitcher, your job is obviously every fifth day," Black said. "But the four days in between, we're all watching. [Freeland] is going about it the right way. There's a group of guys who are committed to helping us win games, and [Freeland] falls in line there."
Freeland, 25, is learning how to be a leader -- and not just with his numbers. Freeland said he looks to leaders like Arenado, Blackmon and Desmond to learn how to be one himself.
"It's just more getting time under my belt and watching how they go about things," Freeland said. "Watching how they go about their day-to-day activities. Nolan, you see he's in the cage 24/7 hitting baseball. So you see those guys working on their game, so you have to constantly be working on your game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Righty Scott Oberg protected a 3-2 lead in the eighth by pitching his ninth straight outing without allowing an earned run. For the second straight game, he forced a double-play grounder in a tight situation.
Sunday, it was Justin Turner in the seventh inning of a tie game -- one the Dodgers won, 6-4. Monday, after giving up Alen Hanson's leadoff single, his first-pitch slider extracted the double-play grounder from Hernandez. Oberg then got Giants first baseman Brandon Belt to ground out to short, ending the inning.
"That was big -- in a one-run game as the top of their order was coming through, to put up a zero was a big moment, for sure," Black said.
No wonder Freeland was so demonstrative as his team was rallying in the seventh. The balls the Rockies put in play were hit so softly, according to Statcast™, that for all we know Freeland willed them telepathically.
Valaika's leadoff single against Bumgarner had an 87.2 mph exit velocity and was placed well enough to defy a 33 percent hit probability. After LeMahieu singled (78 mph and a more-legit 90 percent hit probability) Blackmon loaded the bases with a 47.4 mph dribbler with a 10 percent hit probability.
No contact was need for the Rockies' first run-scoring play, Arenado's bases-loaded walk. Story's double-play grounder came off the bat at 50.8 mph -- so slowly that a throw to the plate wasn't possible. Desmond's 75.1 mph grounder benefitted from Crawford's wild throw.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With basketball season over (but not out of the news, thanks to LeBron James), who thought Coors Field would be the place to see a fancy behind-the-back pass?
That's what happened Monday night.
With one out and one on in the top of the second, LeMahieu ranged hard up the middle to backhand Joe Panik's grounder. With momentum carrying him into short center field, his only shot for the out at second was a behind-the-back flip to Story to retire Crawford.
A double play was possible, but Story made sure to keep his right foot on the bag and catch the fancy toss, and his relay throw was late.
Righty Antonio Senzatela (2-1, 6.23 ERA), who made 10 relief appearances before being optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque, will return to the Majors -- in his preferred role -- to start against the Giants and righty Chris Stratton (8-5, 4.45) on Tuesday at Coors Field at 6:10 p.m. MT. In Triple-A, Senzatela went 3-1 with a 2.15 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. Last season as a rookie, Senzatela was 3-0 with a 4.24 ERA in five games (three starts) against the Giants.
Anne Rogers is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow her on Twitter at @anne__rogers.