The season's first meeting between the D-backs and Rockies pairs two teams that end the first month as surprising leaders atop the NL West.
The D-backs (15-9) took over the top spot from Colorado with Thursday's 6-2 win over the Padres while the Rockies (14-9) were suffering their third consecutive loss to the Nationals, 16-5.
D-backs starting pitcher Robbie Ray (2-0, 3.42 ERA)
Ray picked up the win in an 11-5 victory over the Dodgers in his last start, but he gave up a season-high five runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. It was his first start of the season giving up more than three runs.
For the season he has struck out 30 and walked 14 in 23 2/3 innings, but manager Torey Lovullo says he's making progress in pitching more efficiently. "The stuff is still electric," Lovullo said. "The fastball, the breaking ball, the combination of those two pitches has been tremendous, and at times he's overmatched some really good offensive teams."
Ray is 2-1 with a 5.30 ERA in seven career starts vs. the Rockies. Colorado leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon is 11 for 19 with two home runs in his career against Ray.
Freeland, 23, has made four starts in his rookie season, and his most recent was his best. He threw seven scoreless innings in an 8-0 shutout of San Francisco on Sunday, allowing six hits while walking one and striking out three. He recorded 12 outs on ground balls.
Freeland has an elite pedigree -- he was the eighth player drafted in 2014 -- who succeeds by getting batters to pound the ball into the ground (a 66.2 percent groundball rate).
"His best stuff is down in the strike zone with movement down," Rockies manager Bud Black said after the game. "When you're throwing the ball in the low 90s with action down, you're going to get grounders."
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Led by an outstanding bullpen, the Rockies have a 7-0 record in one-run games. New closer Greg Holland is perfect in nine save opportunities, setup man Adam Ottavino has a 1.93 ERA and left-hander Mike Dunn is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA. The three of them have surrendered 19 hits and struck out 33 in 27 innings.
The D-backs are 4-1 in one-run games, though their bullpen has been less of a sure thing. Fernando Rodney has six saves in seven opportunities, but he has an 11.00 ERA and coughed up a two-run lead on Wednesday vs. San Diego, giving up five runs in the ninth.
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Pounding the rock
The D-backs have put up 53 runs in the first seven games of the homestand, with impressive contributions throughout the lineup. Chris Owings and Yasmany Tomas have three homers apiece; Owings has knocked in 13 to tie Jake Lamb for the team with 19, and Tomas has driven in 10 and is one behind with 18 on the season.
At the top of the order, A.J. Pollock (11 for 28), David Peralta (14 for 23) and Paul Goldschmidt (12 for 22) have each scored nine times and have been on base a combined 48 times in seven games.
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Scouting the Rockies
No surprise, offense continues to be the calling card for Colorado. Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and former D-back Mark Reynolds have seven home runs apiece. Reynolds is hitting .317 with 20 RBI, Arenado is at .314 with 16 RBI and Blackmon is at .304 with 23 RBI.
Outfielder Gerardo Parra (.313) and catcher Tony Wolters (.370) are also off to hot starts.
Blackmon has tortured not only Ray but all Diamondbacks pitching throughout his career, mashing to a .356 average against Arizona. And shortstop Trevor Story was a one-man wrecking crew vs. the D-backs as a rookie last season, blasting five home runs in six games at Chase Field -- including four in the first three games of the season. Story is off to a less ostentatious start this season, with just four home runs, a .175 average and 33 strikeouts in 23 games.
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The D-backs lead the majors with 27 stolen bases in 35 attempts. Like their batting prowess, the base running has also been a team effort, with Pollock (7 for 9), Goldschmidt (6 for 6) and Owings (6 for 7) leading the way. Goldschmidt has been successful on his last 24 attempts, dating back to last August.
San Diego manager Andy Green described Arizona as San Diego manager Andy Green called the Diamondbacks "the best running team in baseball." Colorado has allowed only six stolen bases all season on 10 attempts.