Freeland falters, Rockies fall in Pittsburgh finale

Apr 18, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland (21) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockies weren’t going to keep the top run-scoring team in the National League at bay forever. After holding the Pirates to a total of two runs over their first two games, Colorado allowed 10 runs on Wednesday to snap a three-game winning streak and close their seven-game road trip with a loss.

The 10 runs allowed Wednesday is the most allowed by the Rockies so far in 2018.

Rockies starter Kyle Freeland entered the game still seeking his first victory of the year. Some tough-luck innings had him 0-2 to start the season. There was no bad luck on Wednesday, just a lack of command.

Freeland (0-3, 5.85 ERA) took the loss in a 10-2 final; the 24-year-old was tagged for five runs on six hits and two walks over four-plus innings.

The Rockies didn’t score in the first inning, as they did in the first two games of their three-game set with Pittsburgh, but they did score first. Chris Iannetta sent a four-seam fastball on the inner half over the center field fence. The long ball has been the one consistent source of offense for the Rockies so far this season. Colorado’s 26 home runs entering the game ranked first in the National League, while their team batting average — .215 — ranked last.

The solo home run to Iannetta was the only run Pirates starter Chad Kuhl surrendered. Kuhl (2-1, 4.57) allowed just four hits and struck out four over his six innings.

Colorado at least continued its strong defense, which has helped keep the team in games when the offense has struggled. Carlos Gonzalez made a divining catch to rob Starling Marte of a leadoff single in the fourth inning. However, walks, which have hurt the pitching staff at times in the early going, became a problem in that same inning. Freeland issued a two-out walk to David Freese, which Sean Rodriguez followed with a home run that hooked just over the short porch in left. The swing gave Pittsburgh its first lead in the series. The two-out trouble continued as Freeland then gave up a clean single to Elias Diaz and an RBI double to Max Moroff. Pittsburgh led 3-1 after four.

Freeland needed 86 pitches total to get through that fourth inning, but with a short bench due to Nolan Arenado‘s suspension Rockies Manager Bud Black elected to stick with his young lefty. Arenado was sitting out the final game of his five-game suspension for fighting with San Diego last week. He will return to the Rockies lineup on Friday against Chicago.

The Rockies tried to get something going in the top of the fifth when DJ LeMahieu lined a one-out single to center and Charlie Blackmon reached with two outs after being hit by a pitch. Black did have to dip into his bench in the fifth, though, as Gerardo Parra replaced Gonzalez (Black said postgame that Gonzalez tweaked a hamstring). Parra could not extend the inning, however, grounding out to second.

Freeland’s struggles continued in the fifth, giving up back-to-back singles to start the inning. That was as far as Black would let him go. Scott Oberg retired the first batter he faced, then allowed an RBI single to Josh Bell and a two-run double to Freese. Pittsburgh continued to touch Oberg in the sixth. Colin Moran hit a pinch-hit double with one out, then came around to score on a single by Adam Frazier.

Every Pirates position player except Marte logged at least one hit in the game. Only Moroff did not touch home plate among their position players, showing why Pittsburgh so far is the top run-scoring team in the National League.

Colorado pushed one run across in the eighth against Enny Romero. Parra doubled to center and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Ian Desmond drove him in with a groundout to shortstop.

Romero recorded his first MLB hit in the bottom half of the inning, a double to the right-center gap off Mike Dunn. He came around to score after a single by Frazier and a sac fly from Jordy Mercer. It was Romero’s Pittsburgh debut, after being claimed off waivers from the Nationals. Frazier and Marte, who walked with two outs, both scored on a broken bat double from Bell.

The Rockies fall to 11-9 with the loss, but leave Pittsburgh with a 2-1 series win and a winning road trip after taking three of four from Washington. Colorado has played the fewest home games of any MLB team to date.

NEXT UP: Colorado has a rest day — their first since April 1 — before opening a three-game series with the Cubs at Coors Field on Friday. They will host San Diego for three games after that.

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