The Kyle Freeland that Rockies fans know and love, he who conquered Coors Field in 2018, showed up on Saturday against the Padres. So did vintage Matt Kemp, homering in his first Rockies home start. And, there were web gems and a Trevor Story bomb mixed in, too.
As a result, Colorado cruised to a 6-1 win over the Padres, quickly turning the page from the late-inning, gut-punch loss to San Diego in the home opener on Friday.
“(Friday) night sucked, but we put it behind us,” Freeland said.
The Rockies got on the board first using small-ball in the second inning. Drew Butera’s sacrifice fly scored Garrett Hampson to make it 1-0, and then a throwing error by Padres southpaw Joey Lucchesi on a pickoff attempt to first allowed Chris Owings to score. Charlie Blackmon added an RBI single to make it 3-0.
From the DH spot, Kemp followed up his pinch-hit RBI double on Friday with his first homer of the season, a mammoth 457-foot, opposite-field shot off Cal Quantrill in the third inning.
“On 3-1, he got a fastball down out over the plate, and I’ve seen him do it for many years — he’s got all-field power,” manager Bud Black said. “His swing sets up for right-center power, so that was a classic Matt Kemp swing.”
The fourth inning showcased the escalating superstardom of Story, like the entire first part of this condensed season has. A day after Story became tied with Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor for the most homers hit as a shortstop in his first five MLB seasons (125), he made a diving snare on a line drive to end the top half of the fourth, and promptly hit his fourth homer of 2020 in the bottom half of the frame.
That solo shot made it 5-0, and from there, Owings added another RBI single in the fifth and Freeland locked in his quality start. The southpaw finished with six shutout innings while keeping the Padres off-balance with 29 change-ups on 83 pitches. His polished performance was the 10th time in his career that he’s pitched six or more innings and gave up no runs, with the last time coming April 18, 2019, against the Phillies.
“The changeup is one of those pitches that took me a long time to develop, but it’s at a stage now where I’m comfortable throwing it in any count,” Freeland said. “I’m very pleased with the kind of action I’m getting off it and the kind of swings I’ve been getting off it, and the kind of looks hitters are getting at that pitch to get them off my hard fastball and hard slider.”
The Colorado bullpen did the rest, as the combination of right-handers Yency Almonte (two innings, one run) and Tyler Kinley (one, zero) took care of the final three frames.
Saturday also featured another highlight-reel play by Nolan Arenado, as well as several other eye-popping plays by himself and Story. In the fifth inning, the seven-time Gold Glove winner made an over-the-shoulder catch on a pop-up in deep foul territory, about 150 feet past third base, to get Trent Grisham out.
“That was a phenomenal play,” Black said. “And I’ll go on record: This is one of the best defensive games you’ll ever see… What a display of infield play tonight.”
Colorado’s dugout roared at Arenado’s grab and the Rockies’ cheers echoed throughout the empty stadium. If the easy victory hadn’t yet been assured, it was in that moment as the club improved to 5-2.
The series concludes with Sunday’s matinee.
Oberg shut down on Saturday. Black gave a postgame update on right-hander Scott Oberg, who has been on the injured list with a lower back strain since the season began. Oberg threw live batting practice Thursday, but had his simulated session on Saturday cut short.
“He felt a little discomfort in the hand and he had a hard time gripping the ball,” Black said. “We felt as though, at that moment, (the best route) was to shut him down.. It was a little bit out of character for how he’s been progressing.”
Oberg will be further evaluated and the team will know more on his status in the coming days. Colorado’s already had one pitcher suffer a season-ending injury, as rookie starter Peter Lambert underwent Tommy John surgery.
🔥😍🔥😍🔥😍 #NolanBeingNolan. That’s the tweet. #Rockies pic.twitter.com/FZin5hjRbM
— AT&T SportsNet™ | RM (@ATTSportsNetRM) August 2, 2020