Kyle Freeland

Phillies 7, Rockies 5: Bryce Harper's game-winning HR leads Phils to sweep on getaway day

Phillies 7, Rockies 5: Bryce Harper's game-winning HR leads Phils to sweep on getaway day

BOX SCORE

Bryce Harper clobbered a baseball for the second straight afternoon and his home run proved to be the game-winner as the Phillies completed a three-game sweep of the Rockies with a 7-5 win.

It was Harper's ninth home run of the season and second in two months off Rockies lefty specialist Mike Dunn. Harper has five extra-base hits over his last four games — three doubles and two homers. 

Harper is up to .304/.407/.537 this season against left-handed pitchers with six doubles and three homers in 54 plate appearances.

He's heating up. In their next series, the Phillies face three consecutive lefties Tuesday through Thursday.

With Hector Neris unavailable after pitching two innings Saturday, Juan Nicasio, Adam Morgan and Pat Neshek were strong in relief.

Nicasio struck out Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story in the seventh inning and got Nolan Arenado to ground out with two men aboard to end the threat. Morgan pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts. Neshek threw 11 pitches to earn his third save of the season.

The sweep was the Phillies' second of the season. They wrapped up their homestand Sunday with a 4-3 record and are 18-10 at home. 

The Phils are 27-19 overall as they hit the road for a week-long trip. They lead the Braves by 2½ games, the Mets by 6½ games and the Nationals by 7½ games. The Mets have lost five in a row.

Clutch off the bench

J.T. Realmuto, who did not start, snapped a three-week home run drought with a pinch-hit, two-run shot off Rockies reliever Bryan Shaw in the sixth inning. It was Realmuto's first career pinch-hit homer and it tied the game three batters before Harper put the Phils ahead for good.

Andrew Knapp started in Realmuto's place and walked three times, scoring twice. 

McCutchen stays hot

Andrew McCutchen had another productive day at the plate, reaching his first three times up with a walk, a two-run single and another single.

The two-run single should have been a double and it could have been a bases-clearing double had Knapp read it correctly on first base. It was a deep drive to left-center field but Knapp hesitated thinking it had a chance to be caught. As a result, he advanced only to second.

In his final AB of the day, McCutchen lined out sharply to warning track in left-center.

Eickhoff regressing

Jerad Eickhoff hadn't allowed a home run in 30 innings entering his last start against the Brewers. Milwaukee homered off him twice and the Rockies hit three more on Sunday. That's five home runs Eickhoff has allowed in his last nine innings.

His ERA has risen to 3.23. Eickhoff does not have a huge margin for error. He's heavily reliant on his curveball to the point that facing the same team twice in less than a month can be more problematic for him than other pitchers.

The Rockies came into Sunday's game having scored an average of 6.9 runs per game in May, by far the most in the National League. The Cubs, who the Phillies face next, are second at 5.1.

Kingery's back

Scott Kingery (hamstring) returned from a month-long absence and got his first-ever start in center field. He stroked a line-drive single to left in his first at-bat and later walked and stole a base.

With Odubel Herrera hitting .234 with a .297 on-base percentage, Kingery could continue to see regular time in center field, especially against left-handed starters.

Up next

The Phillies head to the midwest for a seven-game road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee, beginning with four games at Wrigley Field.

There are two very interesting pitching matchups in the Cubs series. 

In Game 1, Jake Arrieta faces the pitcher the Cubs chose to pay instead of him: Yu Darvish. 

In Game 3, it's a battle of left-handed Coles past and present. The Phillies are the only team Cole Hamels has never faced.

Monday night at 8:05 — Jake Arrieta (4-4, 4.02) vs. Yu Darvish (2-3, 5.14)

Tuesday night at 7:07 — Zach Eflin (5-4, 2.89) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (4-3, 3.68)

Wednesday night at 8:05 — LHP Cole Irvin (2-0, 2.77) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (4-0, 3.13)

Thursday afternoon at 2:20 — Aaron Nola (4-0, 4.47) vs. LHP Jon Lester (3-2, 2.09)

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Eight years later, the one that got away comes back to haunt the Phillies

Eight years later, the one that got away comes back to haunt the Phillies

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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Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Tough night expected for Vince Velasquez

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Tough night expected for Vince Velasquez

Phillies (39-67) at Rockies (62-47)
8:40 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After being swept in Anaheim, the Phillies head to Denver to open a challenging three-game series with the Colorado Rockies. They won't have to deal with a designated hitter in this series but it figures to be even tougher on the Phillies' pitching staff.

1. Rockies rollin'
Winners of four of six and 10 of 16, the Rockies have a pretty good hold on a wild-card spot. They trail the Diamondbacks by a half-game for the top wild-card spot, but they're 5½ games ahead of the Brewers for that final National League playoff position.

The Rockies, per usual, have been much better at Coors Field (33-20) than on the road (29-27). 

Colorado only lengthened its lineup at the trade deadline with the acquisition of catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who was not having a good season in Texas but is still one of the best backstops in baseball, offensively and defensively. When Lucroy is batting eighth, you know your lineup is pretty damn good.

Centerfielder Charlie Blackmon and third baseman Nolan Arenado are each having MVP-caliber seasons. Blackmon is hitting .330 with a .990 OPS, 25 homers, 71 RBIs and an NL-leading 97 runs scored. Arenado is hitting .317 with a .961 OPS, 34 doubles, 24 homers and 96 RBIs. He's on pace to finish with 36 homers and 143 RBIs.

Arenado's numbers with runners in scoring position are insane. He's 47 for 106 (.443) with a .504 OBP and 25 extra-base hits.

There's much more to worry about than just Blackmon and Arenado, though. 

Two-hole hitter D.J. LeMahieu, the 2016 batting champion, is hitting .323. 

Outfielder/first baseman Gerardo Parra is hitting .414 at Coors Field this season and .479 with 15 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in his last 25 starts overall. 

First baseman Mark Reynolds is having a career year, batting .284/.370/.522 with 23 homers.

Even Carlos Gonzalez, who's slumped nearly the entire season, has picked it up of late, hitting .298 over his last dozen games.

Good luck this weekend to Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta and Aaron Nola.

2. Big start for Vinny Velo
Velasquez is coming off his best start of the season — seven shutout innings against the Braves. The only other time in his career he pitched at least seven scoreless innings was his 16-strikeout shutout last April against the Padres.

Velasquez has been efficient in two of his three starts since returning from the disabled list on July 18. In Miami, he allowed one earned run over six innings on 79 pitches. Against the Braves last weekend, he faced the minimum in four of seven innings.

Velasquez said after his last start that he had to "humble" himself while on the DL. He was insinuating that his "ego is high" because of his big fastball but that he's needed to learn how to become more of a pitcher than a thrower, specifically in high-pressure situations. 

In his last start, Velasquez threw 24 curveballs, the most he's thrown in any game since that shutout of the Padres on April 14, 2016.

Thing is, curveballs don't always work at the altitude of Coors Field. They can become more loopy, and a hanger against this Rockies lineup is a good bet to get hammered. So this might be another night you see 60 to 70 fastballs from Velasquez.

Velasquez started a game at Coors Field last season and actually fared well, allowing two runs over six innings — since 2013, the only other Phillies to do so at Coors were Zach Eflin and Cole Hamels.

Velasquez also faced these Rockies on May 25 at home and allowed one run on eight hits over five innings in a Phillies win. Despite his relative successes against Colorado, current Rockies hitters are 22 for 53 (.415) against him with six doubles and two homers. 

Gonzalez is 5 for 9 off Velasquez with two doubles and a homer. Arenado is 2 for 6 with two walks. Blackmon is 3 for 8, all singles.

3. Ideal venue for Williams
Nick Williams' speed and ability to drive the ball to the opposite field should play well at Coors Field, where he may end up with a triple or two this weekend.

Williams broke out of a mini-slump on Thursday by going 3 for 4 with two doubles and a two-run homer at Angel Stadium. He's hitting .294/.333/.559 with six doubles, three triples, five home runs and 21 RBIs in 27 games. 

Williams' 14 extra-base hits are the most by any Phillie in his first 27 games since Don Hurst in 1928.

The Phillies face a left-hander tonight in Kyle Freeland but Williams will still be hard to sit. He's held his own so far against southpaws, going 4 for 17 (.235) with a triple and two homers.

4. Scouting Freeland
Freeland, who was taken a spot after Aaron Nola in the 2014 draft, has been the Rockies' best starting pitcher in 2017.

The 24-year-old rookie is 11-7 with a 3.71 ERA in 21 games (20 starts). He's struck out 5.6 batters per nine and walked 3.3, but groundballs have saved him. Freeland has a groundball rate of 56 percent, which ranks fifth in the majors behind only Marcus Stroman, Clayton Richard, teammate Tyler Chatwood and Mike Leake.

Freeland has induced 13 double plays this season, which would lead the Phillies' staff.

Freeland has five pitches but mostly utilizes a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball and cutter. He also has a slider and changeup he's thrown a combined 15 percent of the time. 

Surprisingly, Freeland's ERA is a full run lower at home (3.21) than on the road (4.22). He's allowed just five home runs in 61⅔ innings at Coors Field.

5. This and that
• The Phillies went 3 for 25 with runners in scoring position in the Angels series. They rank last in the National League in batting average (.237), OBP (.308) and slugging percentage (.384) with RISP.

• The Phillies haven't won a series at Coors Field since 2012. They've split four-game series there the last two seasons.

• The Rockies have hit .304/.358/.512 at home. Their opponents have hit .278/.348/.466.