Rockies’ Freeland looks to extend home dominance vs. Padres

DENVER — Colorado Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland, who has been dominant at Coors Field, will take the mound Thursday in the rubber game against the San Diego Padres.

The Rockies are 16-9 in starts by Freeland (11-7, 2.96 ERA), who is 7-2 with a 2.22 ERA in 11 home starts this season and will be opposed by rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi (6-7, 3.79).

Freeland has thrown 152 innings, close to the 156 he finished with as a rookie last year. But at this point last season, Freeland was wilting from the rigors of his first season in the majors. After Sept. 11, he made four relief appearances and one start, a three-inning effort in his final game of the season.

Freeland said experience has certainly been helpful this year. But he attributes his added strength and stamina to an offseason mechanical change and an altered throwing program.

“The change in the mechanics helped not take so much of a toll on my body like my mechanics last year did,” said Freeland, who still pauses in his delivery when lifting his front leg but in a more efficient manner.

“The hestitation’s more at the top,” he said, “where I can keep my load instead of de-loading and then trying to make a pitch and then keep that load and drive down the mound. And that’s taking less of a toll off trying to de-load and then trying to get it all back using my arm and my legs as much as I can.”

Freeland said he changed his weightlifting programs to boost his stamina. And he has cut back on his throwing.

“Since the All-Star break, every day after my start, I haven’t thrown,” he said. “I just take a day (off), and then I’ll have my bullpen (session) the next day. This year, it’s much lighter every single day, just not stretching it out because I know how long the season is. There’s no reason to try and build arm strength in season because you’re going to get tired.

“All season it’s been lighter throwing in between starts. Not throwing a lot of flat grounds or having long bullpens. Kept my bullpens short most of the year and really shortened them up after the All-Star break.”

Freeland is 3-1, 1.72 in his past five starts, allowing one homer in 31 1/3 innings in that stretch. On Friday at Atlanta, he allowed three hits and one run in six innings and was the winner in Colorado’s 11-5 triumph. He’s 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts against the Padres this year and 1-2, 4.21 in six career games (four starts) against them.

Lucchesi will be making his 20th career start and fourth against the Rockies. He held them to four hits and two unearned runs in six innings April 10 while winning his Coors Field debut 5-2, and he is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA against Colorado in three starts this season.

In his last outing Friday against Arizona, Lucchesi lost 9-4, allowing a career-high nine hits and five runs in four innings. That matched the shortest outing of his career.

Lucchesi, whose herky-jerky motion with his hands makes for an unusual delivery, has pitched six innings three times — on April 15 against San Francisco and Aug. 12 against Philadelphia in addition to his April 10 outing at Coors Field. Lucchesi is 2-2, with a 2.87 ERA in six road starts and 4-5, 4.26 in 13 starts at home.

“I think for the longest time we’ve given Joey the opportunity to just go pitch and not overwhelm him with information,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “This is the time to start taking information in on what we’d like him to change and how we’d like him to grow. And I think he’s responded to that very well right now. And I’m excited about that, because that ultimately will be the determining factor to how great you’re going to be is, can you grow?

“I think he’s handled this year great. There’s been ups and downs. He’s been through injuries. He’s been through some struggles that way. I think he’s handled it well.”