August 15, 2022

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Freeland steady as defense struggles

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PHILADELPHIA — Not until the last pitch of his disappointing Monday night did Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland bark in frustration.

Throughout his five innings of the Rockies’ 8-2 loss to the Phillies, Freeland had to work harder than necessary, mainly because of others’ mistakes.

Usually dazzling third baseman Ryan McMahon’s first-inning error — first of his two — cost Freeland extra pitches. A third-inning error on shortstop José Iglesias wrought three unearned runs — the last two of which scored on a tragicomedy in right-center when Randal Grichuk and Charlie Blackmon let Kyle Schwarber’s fly ball drop between them for a double.

Freeland’s final inning started with Bryce Harper’s homer to left-center but ended with three strikeouts. Freeland thought he got Schwarber looking for the last strikeout, but third base umpire Manny Gonzalez ruled that the Phillies’ left fielder had checked his swing. So, after getting the swinging strikeout on his 101st pitch, Freeland barked toward third base.

Afterward, Freeland said he hadn’t seen the replay so he didn’t know if the call was right.

Besides, anger from giving up the homer fueled his final flourish.

“It was a really badly located pitch,” Freeland said. “It was supposed to be down and away and ended up middle-in, right into any hitter’s wheelhouse.

“After that, I got a little pissed off and really locked in.”

Other than reaching a five-year, $64 million contract last week, Freeland has endured a year that hasn’t gone his way. Monday night, when three of the four runs off Freeland were unearned, and two of the six hits would not have happened if not for the commission and omission lapses in the third, he struck out a season-high seven.

“As a young player, you can let yourself get frustrated really quick, and let those things get to you and things start to snowball on you,” Freeland said. “It shows a little bit of maturity in myself to turn the page, understand that I can’t control the things that happen behind me. They’re going to happen. They’re going to happen again. It’s baseball.”

Said Rockies manager Bud Black: “He’s a pro. He knows that he has to pick up his teammates, which he did a number of times today. He competes nonstop. He competes hard, and he knows that through the course of a season all of us are going to pick each other up. Tonight was his night to pick those guys up.”

Grichuk, who said he lost Schwarber’s fly ball when it rose above the stadium lights, saw Freeland maintain effectiveness despite the untidy defense.

“He looked good,” Grichuk said. “[The Phillies] battled. They had some at-bats that they fouled off some pitches that I thought were really good pitches. I thought there were some really good pitches that were close that didn’t go his way. If it does, it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s one of those nights.

Freeland, though, was left to put the night in perspective.

The Rockies (10-6) have three more games against the Phillies to try to uphold their undefeated record in series (currently 4-0-1). Two hitting streaks continued with home runs — Connor Joe (12 games) on the game’s first pitch off Phils starter Kyle Gibson and Grichuk (10) off Gibson to open the second. And one slump ended when Kris Bryant singled in the ninth to end a 16 at-bat dry spell.

After making enough key mistakes and having enough bad luck on grounders to give up 10 runs in 9 innings over his first two starts, Freeland has had two solid starts against the Phillies. He has developed confidence in his curve (which put away five of his seven strikeouts) and fastball, and, on Monday, he found his best slider and didn’t abandon a changeup that wasn’t up to par.

Freeland is confident that a Rockies team with a tradition of poor road play is not going to fall apart because of Monday’s game.

“It was one bad loss,” Freeland said. “That’s not going to script our future at all.”

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