Colorado Rockies: Kyle Freeland gets better even in a loss
By Ben Macaluso
Kyle Freeland’s start in the rubber match against the Milwaukee Brewers, by few accounts will go down as his best start. He pitched 5.2 innings on five walks and seven strikeouts. The walks are a career high. By no means should this be cause for concern though. He pitched well and more importantly gave his team a chance to win, even if it wasn’t reflected in the 8-4 final. Freeland is pitching late into August as a rookie. In Denver. He embraces pitching at home. He is growing from his best start from his no-hit bid against the White Sox.
As much as Freeland struggled with walks, he recorded a higher strikeout total than average. Freeland got behind several batters but showed several times he could get out of high pressure situations. With runners on first and third, he struck out consecutive batters to end the inning off a great fastball and slider combination.
The juxtaposition of high walks and strikeouts didn’t go unnoticed by Freeland.
"“At times I was trying to be too fine where it helped me but it also hurt me,” he said. “I got myself into situations where I got behind in counts and had to work around hitters. I had some runners on so it was kind of hard to live in the zone. I got strikeouts when I was trying to be fine in situations that called for getting a strikeout. At the same time I was trying to be fine in other situations where it ended up being a walk. That ended up hurting me even though I was able to get out of a couple of situations.”"
In the sixth, Freeland passed the 100 pitch mark and walked his last two batters. His manager may have saw a fatigue issue lead to the uncharacteristic walks.
"“Unless he was tiring a little bit, I didn’t see the overall stuff go down,” Bud Black said. “That stuff was still pretty good. But when you’re a little bit tired you don’t have your legs underneath you, you try to throw a little bit too hard. I think the ball just got away from him arm side on those last two hitters he faced.”"
Before the game, Black talked about how his rookie pitcher is having a great start to his career. Freeland’s contemporary rookie pitchers have seen extended time away from the rotation. The lefty has benefitted from breaks but not like his teammates. Black said Freeland’s breaks at the All-Star break and his stint on the DL from a groin pull has helped him stay fresh.
Freeland gives credit to the experience of his catchers.
"“[Ryan Hanigan]’s been incredible too he’s a very intelligent catcher, along with [Jonathan] Lucroy. They’re both nails behind the plate. They both have faced a lot of guys they know a lot of hitters. They’re extremely intelligent out there. Learning from them from their catching stand point as a pitcher allows us to learn a lot,” Freeland said."
Hanigan said (who suffered a groin injury of his own exiting the game early) Freeland is most effective when he has command inside and his breaking pitches are effective. When asked about Freeland’s biggest improvement from the near no-hit bid, Hanigan responded with a story of tenacity.
"“He didn’t have his great stuff today and he still pitched a good game for us,” Hanigan said. “He got to a couple 3-2 counts and he battled but couldn’t so he had some walks today. But really with some guys on base in some certain situations he pitched out of it. That’s the thing I’ve been most impressed about. A lot of times in the year when he has got into trouble he has pitched out of it. That’s big for a young guy to keep the big inning down.”"
Next: Colorado Rockies roster moves: Hoffman, McMahon sent to Triple-A
Even when the Rockies lose, this young pitching staff is developing. Nobody exemplifies this more on this staff more than Kyle Freeland. This game may never be remembered in the grand scheme of his career. But every inning counts if this team is going to elevate beyond a growth year. Let alone a shot at the playoffs.