Sometimes frustration boils over.
And there is nobody more frustrated on the Colorado Rockies than starting pitcher Kyle Freeland.
After a stellar 2018 campaign in which he placed in the top-five of National League Cy Young voting, Freeland was heralded as living proof that it’s possible to thrive as a pitcher at Coors Field.
The 2019 season was loaded with expectations for Freeland, even more so after his counterpart – German Marquez – received a lucrative five-year contract extension just days into the season.
Unfortunately, Freeland experienced a fall from grace, pitching to an earned run average well over seven which ultimately led to him being demoted to Triple-A to fine-tune his game.
Freeland returned to the big leagues following the All-Star break with the Rockies still in the thick of the postseason hunt. The Colorado native struggled in his first two outings, allowing 10 runs in eight innings of work.
However, Freeland’s fortunes turned in his third start of the second half which came in the Rockies’ second game of a doubleheader Wednesday the Washington Nationals.
The success did not come easy.
Freeland was tested early in the ballgame. With a runner on second and one out in the first inning, the southpaw worked a 3-2 count to Nationals’ third baseman Anthony Rendon. Rendon hacked away, fouling off pitch after pitch, keeping the pressure on Freeland to execute pitches.
Finally, on the 13th pitch of the at-bat, Freeland struck Rendon out swinging on a 94-MPH pitch that was perfectly located on the lower, inside portion of the strike zone.
Upon receiving the ball back from catcher Chris Iannetta, Freeland gazed behind the mound and nodded with confidence as he exhaled in relief following the tense moment. The strikeout was a confidence boost for Freeland who at one point this season looked like he was enduring a case of the yips.
From that moment on, Freeland was dialed in, working six scoreless innings of ball, allowing four hits while striking out four batters and allowing one unearned run. Three of his strikeouts came in the fifth inning where Freeland struck out the side.
“After the second inning, I caught a groove and was able to fill up the zone with strikes, make quality pitches down in the zone, mix well and keep the hitters off-balance,” Freeland said.
One of Freeland’s most significant issues early in the season was his inability to locate pitches. He’d often leave balls over the middle of the plate, or hang breaking pitches which resulted in opposing hitters running up the scoreboard against him.
Freeland did a much better job of locating his pitches as he lived on the corners throughout his outing. Additionally, his breaking pitches synchronized with his fastball to keep hitters guessing all night.
“It’s a good sign moving forward for the next couple months,” Bud Black said. “That was reminiscent of Kyle last year, making pitches, getting big outs. Hopefully, he can carry that over.”
Despite his stellar performance, Freeland ended up as the losing pitcher after the Rockies’ offense failed to score as Colorado was defeated 2-0.
The additional highlight of the game for Freeland came in the seventh inning – after completing his outing after hurling 109 pitches. With the Rockies batting in the top of the inning, Freeland was ejected by home plate umpire Jon Libka after heckling from the dugout about the strike zone.
— JD (@OnThunderIsland) July 25, 2019
Freeland’s ejection embodies the frustrations the Rockies have endured all season long. He even admitted that part of the reason he spoke up was to try and fire up the club.
“I finally just had enough of it. I tried to help fire up the dugout a little bit, get some production going,” Freeland said. “Obviously didn’t happen, but nice try.”
From starting off the year with a spruce of injures to surging through May and June, and now watching their season crumble after nearly a month of dreadful play, 2019 has not been kind to the Rockies.
Colorado has been putrid as of late. The Rockies have a dismal record of 48-55, and they have won just four games in July.
The last 20 games have been especially gut-wrenching for Colorado. The Rockies have been outscored 154-83, good for a run differential of -71 which is the second-worst stretch in franchise history. The only time it was worse was during the club’s inaugural 1993 season.
Although things do not look good for the Rockies at the moment, Freeland and the rest of the club have expressed optimism throughout the team’s darkest hour.
“We’ve still got a lot of baseball left,” Freeland said. “We know the caliber of team that we are and what we can accomplish. We’re striving for that. Right now, we’re grinding through some tough losses.”
The grind will continue for the Rockies as the dog days of summer begin to set in. The 2019 season has been a bit of a rough ride and the one major takeaway so far this season has been frustration, an emotion Freeland perfectly captured in the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s affair.
Freeland is one of the faces of the Rockies’ franchise.
A Colorado kid with well established local roots, Freeland’s actions in the dugout were indicative of what has transpired this season, and the perplexing reality the Rockies face the rest of this year and beyond.