DENVER – If things had worked out differently eight years ago, lefty Kyle Freeland might have pitched six shutout innings for the Phillies instead of against them on Thursday night.
Freeland’s work on the mound and Ryan McMahon’s work at the plate (five RBIs on a pair of homers) backboned the Colorado Rockies’ 6-2 win over the Phillies at Coors Field (see observations).
Zach Eflin pitched well before an error by shortstop Scott Kingery, a base hit and a three-run homer turned the game in the Rockies’ favor in the sixth inning.
Save for a two-run homer by J.T. Realmuto in the seventh, the Phillies’ bats did little in one of the best places to hit in baseball. Four of the Phils’ five hits were singles and one of those was an infield hit.
The top four hitters in the Phillies’ lineup were 0 for 14.
After the game, manager Gabe Kapler tipped his cap to the Rockies’ starting pitcher.
“I think the story was Freeland,” Kapler said. “He was really good. He really commanded the inside part of the plate. He made it very difficult for us to get anything going. We weren’t able to score any runs. It’s tough to score two runs and win in this ballpark.”
Freeland was one of the game’s breakout pitchers last season. He went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 33 starts and finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting. He’d started against the Phillies once in 2017, but had to come out in the first inning with a groin injury. He entered this start 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA on the new season, but clearly did his homework on the Phillies. He gave up just two hits, walked none and struck out seven.
“I noticed when I started watching video two days ago that they have guys with big leg kicks and they’re trying to get the perfect timing with the pitcher,” he said. “It’s kind of easy to start messing with their timing.”
Freeland did that by varying the interval of the hesitation in his delivery.
“I can hold that for a whole inning,” he said of the pause on his leg kick.
Freeland, who turns 26 in May, actually has a significant connection to the Phillies. He was selected by the Phils in the 35th round of the 2011 draft as a high school senior out of the Denver area. Freeland opted not to sign. He attended the University of Evansville and in 2014 was drafted in the first round by the Rockies. He was picked eighth overall, one slot behind Aaron Nola, and received a $2.3 million signing bonus from the Rockies.
Had Freeland signed with the Phillies out of high school, he and Nola might now be teammates.
And the Phillies would have a lefty in their rotation.
“The Phillies picked me as a draft-and-follow so I continued to play summer ball that year then they offered at the end of the summer,” Freeland said. “We couldn’t get to the price point that I wanted. It was a tough decision for me. I wanted to go play pro ball. I also had a great offer on the table to go play for Evansville and I think it’s safe to say I made the right choice.”
Freeland would not say how far apart he and the Phillies were back in 2011. But he did mention how much the Phils had on the table.
“You’re 18 years old and you have someone throwing a quarter of a million dollars at you,” he said. “I really didn’t know anyone who had been through the process so it was hard for me to lean on anybody. So it was a decision I had to make on my own and I’ve never had any regrets.
“But at the time it was tough. One thing that was nice is going to college I had three years where I knew I was going to play where as going into pro ball as a 35th rounder, if you don’t pan out in the first season and a half you might get canned.
“I made the right decision.”
It's difficult to argue with that.
Nonetheless, the Phillies sure would like to have had Kyle Freeland on their side Thursday night. What might have been.
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