This is my hill to die on, and I know I’ll get plenty of folks ready to take me down on this one. However, hear me out. I think Kyle Freeland‘s performance in the 2018 Wild Card Game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field deserves the top honor.
Yes, I know the Game Score for Freeland in that contest was just 71. Yes, I know Freeland only went 6.2 innings and didn’t end up getting the decision. But, to me, there’s a lot more to a historic pitching performance than just one statistic.
Think back to the circumstances surrounding that game under the lights in chilly Chicago. Both the Cubs and Rockies had lost in Game 163, meaning they each were just short of grabbing a division title. For the Rockies, it would have been the first NL West crown in franchise history. With the loss in Los Angeles, Colorado was forced to fly to Chicago to get ready to face the Cubs.
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Being on the road in a one-game playoff brought back memories of the year before in Arizona when the Diamondbacks ended Colorado’s season with a Wild Card Game loss.
There were all sorts of things going against Freeland and the Rockies in that game, but the now-26-year-old southpaw came out firing, scattering four hits and walking just one while striking out six in 6.2 shutout innings. With Colorado scoring in the top of the first on a sacrifice fly by Nolan Arenado, Freeland’s pitching allowed the Rockies to keep a tenuous 1-0 lead throughout his time on the mound.
Sitting in the press box at Wrigley Field, the energy inside that stadium that night is still hard for me to explain. However, Freeland kept his cool and helped deliver one of the biggest victories in Rockies history. To me, that earns kudos as the best of the best because this game took place under a national microscope rather than a regular-season game that mattered little to either team.
By the way, if we were doing a “best relief pitcher outing in Rockies history” story, Scott Oberg‘s four-strikeout outing covering every bit of his 1.1 innings to slam the door on the Cubs would be way, way up there, in my mind at least.
OK, I’ve made my pitch (pardon the pun). Now let’s move on to another candidate for the best of the best from another current Rockies pitcher.