It was an atrocious first inning for Kyle Freeland and the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night as they welcomed the Chicago Cubs to chilly Coors Field to begin a four-game series. It was also a bit of a punch in the mouth of reality after what has been a 4-1 joyride to open the 2022 campaign.
Five hits off Cubs bats along with some sloppy defense translated into three first-inning runs before fans could barely settle into their seats. Chicago then finished off Freeland with three hits and a walk in the top of the sixth as the visitors claimed Thursday night with a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
For the Colorado Rockies and Kyle Freeland, there were once again some concerning signs
Colorado’s southpaw was peppered by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Opening Day, with the damage all done in one inning as L.A. posted all five runs and four of its five hits in a nightmarish fourth inning on the way to a 5-3 victory.
Freeland’s ERA was an unsightly 12.27 after his first start. After his second of the season against the Cubs? It lowered slightly to 10.00.
Sure, it’s two starts into the season, but Freeland has not yet regained the form that he showed to end 2021 with a 3.24 ERA in his final 100 innings of the season. Manager Bud Black, however, doesn’t seem concerned about the slow start.
“Stuff-wise, Kyle was fine,” Black said. “They just bunched some hits together in the first inning, and that was sort of the key.”
Freeland said after the game that he didn’t have good fastball command and had to rely on his offspeed pitches early.
“I got singled to death and really wasn’t consistent in the zone with all of my pitches,” Freeland offered. “I definitely need to be better with that.”
And yes, it was one clunker after four consecutive wins, but it also shows that there is plenty of room for improvement. Yonathan Daza’s fifth-inning baserunning blunder kept the Rockies from tying the game and Colorado was just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position through the first six innings. The Cubs during that same stretch were 4-for-9.
The issues with runners in scoring position has been an early bugaboo for the Rockies as they are now hitting just .212 as a team with RISP. Compare that to the regular slash line of .267/.339/.405, which ranks the Rockies fourth, seventh, and 11th, respectively, in all of baseball in those categories.
Just like the Rockies weren’t winning the World Series after five games, they’re not crashing back to earth after one. In a 162-game season, there will be nights where things just don’t seem to click. Thursday night was one of those for the Rockies.
It was also a night, however, that saw the Colorado bullpen continue to deliver, with Ashton Goudeau, Justin Lawrence, and Tyler Kinley combining for 3.2 innings of one-hit ball after Freeland’s departure. If Rox fans are looking for a silver lining from Thursday, Colorado’s bullpen allowing two earned runs in 26.2 innings of work to open the season is certainly that.