The Colorado Rockies have made it a goal to be more aggressive in 2018, and they were aggressive to start the second game of a four-game set with the Padres in San Diego. But nothing the Rockies mustered could compete with Christian Villanueva’s aggressive attack on Colorado’s pitching in a 8-4 Padres victory Tuesday.
Rockies starter Kyle Freeland cruised through the first four hitters he faced with three groundouts and a strikeout, but Villanueva put San Diego on the board early with a moon shot down the left field line. Villanueva blasted a 3-2 slider 403 feet — seemingly in both height and distance — to give the Padres a 1-0 lead. That home run only set the stage for a historic night for the 26-year-old third baseman.
Villanueva’s five RBIs in the game nearly matched his career total of seven entering the game, all logged as a September call-up in 2017. His four runs scored in the game were just one shy of his four scored last season. He had four home runs entering the game, and left with seven. The game was just the ninth start of Villanueva’s career.
Freeland (0-1, 6.75 ERA) pitched better than his line indicated and helped his own cause in the second inning with a one-out single to center off Padres starter Tyson Ross. Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu loaded the bases with back-to-back walks before Nolan Arenado drove home Freeland and Blackmon with a double. LeMahieu was thrown out at the plate trying to make it a three-RBI effort from Arenado.
In the fourth, the Rockies stayed true to their commitment to being more aggressive on the basepaths. Gerardo Parra followed a leadoff double by racing for third base on a 2-2 count to Trevor Story, which Story turned into a hit-and-run that saw him standing on first base with an infield hit. Story then took off on a hit-and-run with Chris Iannetta at the plate and a full count. Iannetta did his part, driving in Parra with a single to left, but Story was thrown out at third base trying to go first-to-third.
Colorado’s bats went cold after the fourth inning, failing to even put a man on base after Iannetta’s single until there was one out in the ninth. Ross (1-0, 4.50), Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates and Kazuhisa Makita combined to retire 15 consecutive hitters.
Villanueva struck again in the bottom of the fourth with his second solo home run of the game. The damage could have been worse, as Freeland issued a leadoff walk to Eric Hosmer, but the second-year starter rolled up Hunter Renfroe on a double play. The second Villanueva home run marked the first multi-home run game of his career. And he wasn’t done.
Freeland, meanwhile, ran into more trouble in the sixth.
Jose Pirela led off with a single and then moved over to third on a one-out double to deep left field by Renfroe. Freeland’s night was done at that point, but his line was not over for the night. Scott Oberg, with the very first pitch he threw, hit Villanueva to load the bases. Freddy Galvis then singled in Pirela and Renfroe. A Carlos Asuaje chopper back to Oberg followed that, scoring Villanueva. Oberg settled down to end the inning, but the Rockies trailed 5-3 when all was said and done.
Freeland finished with four earned runs over 5.2 innings on five hits, two walks and six strikeouts.
Villanueva struck again in the seventh inning, taking Antonio Senzatela deep to left for a three-run home run to cap San Diego’s scoring. With that home run, Villanueva joined Renfroe as the only two Padres to hit three home runs in a game at Petco Park.
The Rockies threatened some in the ninth. Parra and Iannetta each singled, with Parra coming around to score after advancing to second on fielder’s indifference. Rookie Ryan McMahon, making his first start of 2018, took a four-pitch walk with two outs, forcing Andy Green to go to his closer. Brad Hand struck out Pat Valaika to preserve the win and earn the save.
The win was San Diego’s first on the young season; they are now 1-4. Colorado drops to 2-3 with the loss.