Sun shines on Freeland as Rockies host Braves

DENVER — Kyle Freeland will start Sunday for the Colorado Rockies in the rubber match of their three-game series with the Atlanta Braves.

It’s a day game, which bodes well for Freeland.

As a rookie last year, the left-hander went 11-11 with a 4.10 ERA in 33 games (28 starts). In day games that he started at Coors Field, Freeland was 6-3 with a 2.55 ERA.

He held the Chicago White Sox hitless for 8 1/3 innings on July 9, a Sunday afternoon in his final start before the All-Star break. And he limited the Los Angeles Dodgers to one run in six innings when he made his major league debut in the Rockies home opener last year on the afternoon of April 7.

In home day games last year not started by Freeland, 24, the Rockies went 9-10 with a 5.81 ERA.

Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster was unable to come up with any particular reasons for Freeland’s success in day games.

“He’s a young guy,” Foster said. “He gets up early every day, and he’s got energy. I wish I could explain it, but I don’t thnk there’s any science behind it. The guy just wakes up early ready to go, and he’s energized.”

In his first start this season, which was Tuesday night at San Diego, Freeland gave up four runs on five hits, including two solo homers by Christian Villanueva, and two walks in 5 1/3 innings with two strikeouts in an 8-4 loss.

Freeland had a 5.25 ERA without a decision in his two starts against the Braves last year.

Freeland will be opposed by Braves left-hander Sean Newcomb, who lost his first start of the season. He allowed six runs (five earned), five hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings with six strikeouts Monday against Washington in an 8-1 setback.

Newcomb has no record and a 5.91 ERA in two starts against the Rockies and has a 4.50 ERA in one start at Coors Field. It was last season Aug. 15, a 4-3 victory over the Rockies in which Newcomb allowed five hits, four walks and three runs in six innings with eight strikeouts. That was a night game, and Freeland started it for the Rockies

The Braves will be playing their third rubber game in as many series. They won the first two to clinch series at home against Philadelphia and Washington and will be trying to rebound from a 3-2 loss in 10 innings Saturday night.

The Braves tied the game with a run in the ninth against Rockies closer Wade Davis, who had converted his first four save opportunities, but lost in the 10th when closer Arodys Vizcaino issued a four-pitch bases loaded walk to No. 8 hitter Tony Wolters. Before facing Wolters, Vizcaino got ahead of Trevor Story 1-2 but missed with three straight sliders to load the bases.

“The pitches were feeling good,” Vizcaino, speaking through a translator, said of his slider, “so that’s what I was going with. They just weren’t falling in the zone. But it’s part of the game. It doesn’t always work out that way. Got to be a winner and a loser.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker said he thought Vizcaino was trying to get Story to chase breaking pitches and get himself out and, hence, threw those three straight fateful sliders before missing on four straight pitches to Wolters.

“He just kind of got out of whack there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said, “and it’s a tough spot in the game to try and work your way back. He started out throwing the ball really well, I thought, but it just kind of got away from him.”

After Ryan Flaherty tied the game for the Braves with a single in the ninth, the Braves took the game into extra innings when second baseman Ozzie Albies, with one out and runners on first and second, made a leaping, diving catch of DJ LeMahieu’s line drive and turned what appeared to be a potential game-winning hit into a 4-6 double play.

“Our defense has improved immensely,” Snitker said. “That’s the kind of thing that keeps you in games, gives you a chance to win. And it’s doing that.”