You’ve got to love Kyle Freeland. The guy sure puts himself out there.
The Rockies’ left-hander, who appears to be rebounding in a big way from his disastrous 2019 season, is not shy about espousing his belief in himself and his fellow starters. He also holds a bit of a grudge, which is not a bad thing for an ultra-competitive pro athlete such as Freeland.
“Like I’ve said before, I think this pitching staff is pitching with a chip on its shoulder,” said Freeland, who takes a 2-0 record and 2.41 ERA into Tuesday night’s game vs. Arizona at Coors Field. “We took (last year) personally. For me, especially, I’m very much pitching with a chip on my shoulder and want to prove that last year was nothing but a fluke.”
Well, let’s not sugarcoat things. Colorado’s starting pitching last season was bad, as illustrated by a 5.56 ERA that was the third-highest in franchise history and the highest since posting a 6.01 ERA in 1999 — three years before the humidor was installed in the bowels of Coors Field. Freeland, who went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 2018, did a 180-degree turn, going 3-11 with a 6.73 ERA in 2019.
So far this season, Freeland has earned the right to say, “I told you so.”
Entering Monday night’s game against the Diamondbacks, with right-hander Jon Gray on the mound, Colorado was 11-4 and its starters had a combined 2.65 ERA, which ranked second in the National League and third in the majors.
“We are having a ton of fun,” Freeland said. “We are feeding off each other and we are executing our game plans to the best of our abilities. We are keeping teams off-balance.”
What does manager Bud Black think about his guys carrying a giant chip on their pitching shoulders?
“I love it. I think it’s great,” he said. “I’ve told them privately what I think about their talent.”
And Black believes his starters deserve a little more respect.
“Even in ’18 when we led the National League in innings pitched out of the starting rotation, that didn’t seem to get talked about a lot,” Black said. “Kyle got his fair share of acclaim, obviously, for finishing fourth in the Cy Young.”
Black, however, is perplexed that right-hander German Marquez didn’t get much attention last year. Marquez led the NL in innings pitched (174), was tied for fifth in wins (12) and ranked ninth in strikeouts (175) before he was shut down Aug. 26 because of right arm inflammation.
“If you check the numbers last year, he was right there with the big boys,” Black said. “Nationally, over the last couple of years, (the starters) just haven’t gotten a lot of credit — which is fine. But these guys know how good they are and I like the mindset of proving to people that they are a good rotation.”
Top of the order. Center fielder David Dahl, who opened the season as the leadoff hitter, has been scuffling (.246 average) and has subsequently dropped toward the bottom of the order. He hit seventh Monday night, but he went 2-for-4 with an RBI in Colorado’s loss at Seattle on Sunday, a hint that he might be getting back on track. If he does, Black said Dahl could find himself at the top of the order again.
“It was good to see David hit the ball up the middle and over the shortstop’s head,” Black said. “I think we have seen David try and pull the ball too much. He’s been trying not to get beat on fastballs and on pitches inside, and I think it’s cost him the outside of the plate a little bit.
“But if he continues to stay on the ball, like he did yesterday, we would like to get David as many at-bats as possible. And leading off gets him the most, so we’ll see.”
Footnotes. Black said that right-handers Wade Davis (strained shoulder) and Chi Chi Gonzalez (biceps tendonitis) have not begun throwing yet. … Entering Monday, the Rockies had scored five or more runs in 11 games this season, tied with San Diego for the most such games in the majors.
Diamondbacks RHP Zac Gallen (0-0, 2.81 ERA) at Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (2-0, 2.41 ERA)
6:40 p.m. Tuesday, Coors Field
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM
Freeland has become the Rockies’ most versatile pitcher, at least in terms of mixing pitches. He enters his fourth start of the season throwing his changeup 31% of the time, up dramatically from 11.3% in his difficult 2019 season. The Rockies have won all three of his games this season and opponents are batting just .219 against him. The left-hander is 3-4 with a 5.57 ERA in 12 career starts vs. Arizona and is 1-3 with a 7.12 ERA in seven starts vs. the D-Backs at Coors Field. Gallen pitched a quality start his last time out against Houston, allowing two runs on six hits and fanning seven over six innings. Gallen has just one career start at Coors Field, that coming on Aug. 13, 2019, when he allowed two runs over four innings. Gallen opened the season a little wild, walking five batters in his first start. In his past two starts, however, the right-hander has only issued two walks.
Trending: The D-Backs entered Monday night’s game having hit nine home runs over their past five games. They launched just two homers in their first 11 games.
At issue: Colorado outfielder Raimel Tapia, hitting just .133, had not started since last Wednesday, in part because the Rockies faced a lot of left-handed pitching. The addition of veteran slugger Matt Kemp, who provides power from the right side of the plate, has made Tapia more expendable.
Wednesday: Diamondback RHP Luke Weaver (0-3, 12.19) at Rockies RHP Antonio Senzatela (3-0, 2.65), 1:10 p.m., ATTRM
Friday: Rangers RHP Kolby Allard (0-0, 1.00) at Rockies RHP German Marquez (2-2, 2.08), 6:40 p.m., ATTRM