Rockies, Freeland try to keep Diamondbacks down
Colorado second baseman DJ LeMahieu belted a two-run homer with one out in the ninth Wednesday — his first career walk-off hit — to give the Rockies a 5-4 victory, their second in this series.
The Rockies (80-65) lead the National League West by 1 1/2 games over the Los Angeles Dodgers and 3 1/2 over the Diamondbacks. Arizona (77-69), losers of nine of its past 12 games, is four games back in the scramble for the second NL wild-card spot.
The Rockies, winners of eight of their past 11 games, are 20-9 in games started by Freeland (14-7, 2.91 ERA), who will be opposed by Clay Buchholz (7-2, 2.01) — a vital addition since joining the Arizona rotation in late May. He will be making his Coors Field debut.
Freeland has been dominant there this season, going 8-2 with a 2.21 ERA in 13 starts. Freeland is 5-0, 2.03 in his past seven turns, all of which the Rockies have won.
Freeland, a 25-year-old Denver native in his second full season in the majors, is 0-1 with a 4.96 ERA in three starts this season against the Diamondbacks, the last July 21, and 1-2, 4.60 against them in six career starts.
“Kyle’s game stays pretty consistent,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Command of the fastball (to) both sides of the plate. When he goes in, I think he’s got to elevate it a little bit with the fastball — belt high to the hands. Down and away with the fastball. The slider down underneath the right-handed swing. Mix in the change, keep them off balance with the change of velocities with the changeup. Preferably down and away with some action, which he’s very capable (of doing). Mix in a couple curveballs, which Kyle’s done a really good job this year of bringing that into his game.
“Kyle’s game has become pretty consistent. It’s something Kyle should be proud of, the step that he made last year to where we are now.”
Buchholz, 34, unable to find a big league job after last season, signed a minor league deal with Kansas City. He went 1-0, 1.59 with the Royals’ Triple-A Omaha affiliate and excercised the May 1 opt-out date in his contract and signed a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks.
Arizona general manager Mike Hazen and several of his assistants were in the Red Sox front office when Buchholz signed with Boston after being drafted in the first round in 2005, and Arizona manager Torey Lovullo was a Boston coach when Buchholz pitched for the Red Sox.
Buchholz threw a no-hitter Sept. 1, 2007, in his second major league start, went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 2010 and made the Amerian League All-Star team. He was an all-star again in 2013 before enduring a succession of injuries.
Buchholz made three minor league starts for the Diamondbacks before joining their rotation May 20. He missed a month with a left oblique strain but returned to the rotation July 24 and has gone 5-1, 1.66 in his past nine starts.
Asked whether it’s more rewarding to be pitching as well as he has now as opposed to the outset of his career, Buchholz said, “Yeah, probably just for the simple fact that there were a lot of people that wrote me off, and I wasn’t ready to be done playing.”
Said Hazen: “He’s been healthy, and I think you’re seeing the true pitcher emerge. He’s not the guy he used to be with pitches that everyone oohed and awed over at the time. Now you’re watching this guy really pitch. It’s fun to watch. He’s obviously shot above and beyond anything we could’ve hoped. I give a lot of credit to him. He’s one of the leaders of our clubhouse, and you just see the maturity every day with him.”
Buchholz’s one career start against Colorado came in 2016, when he allowed six runs in five innings and took the loss.