Freeland, Rockies Take Step Back Against Dodgers

Quinn Jamieson

One step forward and two steps back seems to be a recurring theme for the Colorado Rockies and starting pitcher Kyle Freeland. This was evident in the Rockies 9-4 defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field on Tuesday.

The loss comes just one day after one of Colorado’s most balanced and complete victories of the season. Following Monday’s victory over the Dodgers, the Rockies had hoped to turn things around and go on a hot streak to get back in playoff contention. The game featured a great performance from Jon Gray along and seemed like the perfect springboard for a Rockies run. Unfortunately for Colorado fans, it wasn’t to be.

In Tuesday’s rematch, Freeland got the start and promptly gave up a home run to A.J. Pollock on the second pitch of the game. This foreshadowed what was to come. The Dodgers would pile on seven runs in the first three innings.

Freeland's tumultuous season has been full of lows. Rock bottom was him getting sent down to Triple-A in May to try and regain his form. Since his return to the majors Freeland has started four games with the Rockies losing each of them. However, before Tuesday's loss, many of the signs were encouraging.

Last week against Washington Freeland showcase great command and lasted six innings while surrendering just one earned run. It had begun to look like the Rockies opening day starter and former ace was regaining his form. It was a step forward for the 26-year-old and the Rockies.

Tuesday’s game was two steps back. Freeland surrendered seven hits, seven earned runs and three home runs. He was unable to record a strikeout and was pulled from the game after only 3 ⅔ innings.

“If you break down each bat there was a mistake in there,” said Rockies manager Bud Black. “What it boils down to is a couple of walks came back to bite him and a couple elevated pitches.”

It is frustrating problem for Freeland, who knows what he has been doing wrong.

"You start making pitches and then they're getting hits at same time, then you start making mistakes and things compile on themselves," Freeland said. "I know what I need to do to execute.... I'm just not doing it."

Freeland is a key component of the Rockies success. He was a catalyst of the Rockies 2018 playoff run and will likely need to fill a similar role this season if Colorado has any hope of making the playoffs.

The biggest bright spot of the evening for the Rockies came in the form of the bullpen. By the time they were utilized in the fourth inning, the damage had already been done and the offense was unable to make up the deficit. However, their performance was still a building block for a Rockies team desperate for building blocks. The trio of Chad Bettis, Sam Howard and Bryan Shaw allowed just two hits and two runs during the remaining 5 ⅓ innings of play.

Shaw, a veteran reliever, led the way with one of his best performances of the season. He struck out six of the seven batters he faced across two innings. Shaw worked his cutter and slider to great effect and had the Dodgers typically explosive offense on their heels.

He, like many Rockies pitchers, has struggled recently. Shaw has been working to overcome those struggles and according to him, finally made a break through.

Shaw has been anxious to display the adjustments that he implemented over the last few weeks with bullpen coach Darren Holmes.

“It's been up and down this year and last year,” Shaw said. “Me and Holmes talked about some different things, worked on different things, mindset, approach, attacking guys. I feel like we've been in the right place since we left Washington but we haven’t had a chance to put it into action (until today).”

On Tuesday those adjustments clearly worked.

Shaw, who boasts playoff experience from his time in Arizona and Cleveland admitted that the upcoming trade deadline had been affecting him mentally. Taking the time to realize that his immediate future with the team isn’t something he controls has allowed him to move past that mental block and focus on performing at his best.

If Shaw can maintain such strong play the Rockies inconsistent bullpen will be much better off. As of now, Scott Oberg has been the only truly consistent performer.

Bullpen performances like Tuesday’s have been few and far between for Colorado, and unfortunately for Bud Black and company it was wasted on a loss.

If the Rockies disastrous July or even Tuesday's game is any indication, the team has many areas that it can improve upon. It will be interesting to see if the Rockies make any moves before Wednesday's 4 pm trade deadline. With the current trajectory of the season, it is more likely that the Rockies be sellers.

Catching the Dodgers for the NL-West crown seems near impossible considering Los Angeles currently holds a 19.5 game lead. However, the Rockies trail by a more manageable seven games in the Wild Card race. This is less than ideal but is far more likely than a 19.5 game turn around.

In order to achieve such an unlikely feat, the Rockies need to quickly find a way to break their cycle of poor play. The offense and the pitching need to click with one another and the team likely needs to go on a hot streak reminiscent of the one that has propelled the San Francisco Giants from the bottom of the NL into playoff contention. One thing is certain. If Colorado has any hope of achieving this increasingly unlikely goal, they will need Kyle Freeland to definitively take steps forward and not look back.

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