Kyle Freeland comes up huge on short rest to send Rockies to first NLDS since 2009
The Rockies' young ace delivered in a big way in the NL Wild Card Game against the Cubs
CHICAGO -- Denver native and Rockies ace lefty Kyle Freeland, the 25-year-old product of Thomas Jefferson High School has already forged a reputation as a tamer of Coors Field -- for his young career, he's authored a 3.04 ERA at a mile above sea level but a 3.75 mark on the road. In the National League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, though, he thrived 594 feet above sea level.
Pitching on three days' rest for the first time as a pro (and as the first Rockies pitcher to start on short rest in the postseason), Freeland shoved in the Rockies' eventualin 13 innings at Wrigley -- reaching the NLDS for the first time since 2009.
Of his 82 pitches, 60 went for strikes. He recorded seven groundouts against one fly-out. At one point, Freeland retired 13 in a row. He didn't allow a three-ball count until he walked Ian Happ in the sixth. He didn't allow multiple baserunners until that same inning:
Freeland located his cutter well pretty much all night, especially when he "backdoored" it to the opposite side (not unlike his counterpart Jon Lester was able to do), and paired it well with his fastball. He also messed with the Cubs' timing by varying the pause at the top of his leg lift:
And then there was his Terry Mulholland-style pickoff move to first that almost caught Ben Zobrist in the first ...
Particularly impressive was the work Freeland did in the sixth. After the walk to Happ, he was into the Cubs' batting order for the third time. That's a danger spot for any pitcher, let alone one pitching on short rest. Then David Dahl badly misplayed a fly ball off the bat of Kris Bryant for a "single." With two one and one out, though, Freeland teased a double-play ball out of Anthony Rizzo. In the seventh, Freeland got Javier Baez to pop out, and then Charlie Blackmon appeared to misjudge a well struck ball off the bat of Albert Almora. Freeland then benefited from a tremendous play from Trevor Story on a Daniel Murphy liner to end his night.
Adam Ottavino eventually blew the 1-0 lead that Freeland handed him, and the sprawl of 13 innings probably buried Freeland's excellence in the postgame consciousness. Without Freeland's suffocating performance, though, the Rockies wouldn't be moving on to face the Brewers in the NLDS after playing in three time zones in as many days.
Prior to Tuesday night's game, Rockies manager Bud Black was asked about his valuing of postseason experience in light of the fact that Chicago starter Jon Lester had so much and Freeland, meantime, had none. "Right," Black quipped, "Isn't that great?"
Afterward, though, Freeland was afforded the proper perspective when it comes to becoming seasoned in October. "Got to start your postseason experience somewhere," the pitcher said.
Start it he did, and to great and memorable effect.
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