Kyle Freeland is certainly experiencing a horrible case of baseball deja-vu.
The starting lefthander of the Rockies on Saturday was great in Los Angeles with six strikeouts, three earned runs and four hits in six innings. Unfortunately, another well-known story unfolded in addition: Colorado’s lifeless offense and inconsistent bullpen wasted yet another quality Freeland start.
Dodgers’ first baseman Cody Bellinger’s solo-homerun in the bottom of the ninth ended on the Rockies, 4-3, for their sixth consecutive loss.
“I think the hits will come, and eventually they will come in bunches,” said manager Bud Black. “That’s not happening right now. I’m tired of saying we need five, six or seven men with real quality benefits and our heads (good). That’s what it takes and we’re not there yet.”
Colorado, losers in 11 of the last 13, is now below .500 (13-14) for the first time since the Texas season opener fell. The Dodgers (21-8) leave no doubt that NL West is still going through L.A.
The Dodgers wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. It started with a first inning walk to outfielder Mookie Betts, and one batter later, shortstop Corey Seager Betts drove home with an RBI-single. Colorado pitched Seager in a run-down at second base and Freeland later ended the team, but the damage was already done when L.A. established an early 1-0 lead.
The Dodgers kept their foot on the gas in the second inning when outfielder Chris Taylor launched a full-count moonshot over the rightfield fence to make it 2-0. Freeland had only thrown 29 pitches.
Colorado was quick to react, however, when outfielder Sam Hilliard hit a 431-foot homerun from righthanded Dustin May into the empty stands on the right field at Dodgers Stadium. The Rockies trailed 2-1 in the third inning.
Then Freeland found his groove. He retired 12 consecutive batters between the third and sixth innings, drove a low-90s fastball and vastly improved off-speed pitches compared to a year ago. The 27-year-old lefthanded into the evening with a 2.56 ERA and remained more like the 2018 pitcher who finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting.
Freeland took out Betts – twice.
“I felt good from the start,” said Freeland. “The insult they have, you have to be smart, and they will be aggressive on a lot of things, whatever they were. As the game went on I kept editing my pitch mix and worked well with Tony (Wolters) over there, and I got things rolling. … It stinks that we’re grinding and things don’t fall on our side at the end of the game. We want to turn that around. “
Black added: “I thought Kyle was in the game as always and kept us in the game after trailing 2-0, nothing. He throws the ball well all year round. “
Freeland is now 6-for-6 in quality start this season. He just needed help from the Rockies attack on Saturday.
And again, Freeland couldn’t get enough.
Rockie’s third baseman Nolan Arenado’s struggle at home continued – 0-for-3 with one RBI – but his sacrifice fly in the sixth scored shortstop Trevor Story to tie the game 2-2, when LA righthanded Brusdar Graterol eliminated the bullpen. Story’s infield single and double, a Daniel Murphy single and Hilliard’s explosion in the third inning accounted for Colorado’s four hits in the evening.
The Rockies, with the go-ahead run in third place in the seventh inning, pinch-hit Matt Kemp ahead of catcher Tony Wolters. Reliever Blake Trains threw three consecutive balls and a wild pitch that scored Ryan McMahon for a 3-2 lead.
It wouldn’t take long.
Freeland got the bases loaded with no outs in the bottom of the seventh to end his night with 94 pitches (62 strokes) and Colorado turned to Yency Almonte from the bullpen. He gave up the tying run on a ground-out double play, but Almonte then eliminated Austin Barnes to end the threat.
Their stalemate continued into the ninth inning with Rockies-pitcher Daniel Bard entering the bottom of the frame. Bellinger was the first batter Bard faced, and on his first pitch, Bellinger hit a homer over the rightfield fence.
The Rockies close their three-game series on Sunday-afternoon.
“We’re not getting that crucial throw or that big hit that could give us some momentum,” said Black. “We have to be there quickly.”