PHOENIX — When the Atlanta Braves clinched the National League East on Thursday night, it meant that the Colorado Rockies wouldn’t need to travel to Atlanta to make up a postponed game. It also meant that Kyle Freeland’s 2021 season had come to a close.
If the Rockies and Braves needed to make up a September 16 game that was postponed by weather in order to determine the winner of the NL East, Freeland would have made the start for Colorado with another team’s season on the line. But with the game not necessary, Freeland’s eventful 2021 campaign has officially ended.
While the majority of the Rockies may not have been thrilled about making the flight from Phoenix to Atlanta for a makeup game, Freeland admitted that knowing his season was officially completed was “bittersweet.”
“It’s been a pretty solid season. Obviously, there’s always room for improvement and things that I wish would have gone better, especially that first month I was back,” Freeland said. “It’s bittersweet that it’s over.”
A look back at Colorado Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland’s season
After suffering a shoulder injury in spring training, Freeland’s season debut didn’t come until May 25 when he pitched four innings and allowed one run on four hits. Over his next four starts, however, opponents hit .421 against the southpaw as he ERA skyrocketed to 11.34 (10.96 FIP) in 16.2 innings.
It was part of a tough stretch for the Rockies as well. Colorado would come back to win 8-7 against San Diego on June 16 despite Freeland giving up nine hits and five runs in 3.2 innings. The victory would raise Colorado’s mark on the season, at that point, to 28-41.
“After those first couple of months, especially on the road which was very bumpy and our road record is what it is, it wasn’t pretty at all,” Freeland said. “But I think once our rotation as a whole started to gain momentum, we carried out the rest of the season.”
Freeland did indeed find his footing, posting a 2.66 ERA over his next 13 starts (71.0 innings). In what would be his final start of the season, Freeland held the Washington Nationals to one run and six hits over 6.2 innings. It would put the capper on a season that saw Freeland make 23 starts, post a 4.33 ERA, 1.417 WHIP, and totaling 2.3 bWAR (fifth-highest on the team).
What turned Freeland’s season around? Our own Kevin Larson went into a deep dive on the subject here.
The 111 ERA+ posted this season was the second-lowest of Freeland’s five-year career, but he’s already turned the page and looking ahead to 2022, a season that he hopes is free of injury.
“Making sure I stay healthy through spring training so I can start on day one,” Freeland said about his preparations for next season.
He’s also hoping to continue a personal even-year trend where he has found success. In 2018, he finished fourth in the National League Cy Young with a 17-7 mark and 2.85 ERA. In 2020, he led all of Major League Baseball by making 13 starts in what was a pandemic-shortened 60-game slate.
Those are all individual moments, but Freeland is ready for team success, including the Rockies to return to the postseason. As he stood on the turf at Chase Field and contemplated a three-game series against the Diamondbacks that would feature the two bottom teams in the National League West, there was one thought that came to Freeland’s mind.
“It sucks that we’re not playing for a playoff spot,” he said.