Bud Black still has a Kyle Freeland problem.
The Rockies manager aforementioned before Saturday night’s game with Baltimore that interleague ball — Freeland came into the evening with a career 6-1 record and a sparkling 2.20 ERA life against American League foes — might just be the corner that turns around his troubled left-hander’s season.
Instead, the Orioles had Freeland and the Rockies tracters, turning — actually, sprinting was more like it — toward the tract walls at Coors Field in Baltimore’s 9-6 triumph, evening the weekend series at a game apiece.
The Denver native was torched for 10 hits and seven earned runs over four turn piece fanning two. Freeland threw 67 pitches, 49 for strikes, and left the contest after striking out to end the bottom of the fourth with the hosts staring at a 7-4 deficit.
It was the fourth start out of 11 to start 2019 in which Freeland was labelled for five earned runs or more. Perspective: That’s as galore outings of five runs or more the portsider had given up over 61 career starts in the previous two seasons combined.
Freeland’s struggles took some of the shine off a strong evening of run support, highlighted by Nolan Arenado’s 200th career home run, a three-run shot that gave the hosts a 4-3 lead with two outs in the bottom of the third.
Arenado became the fourth-fastest third baseman to reach 200 career homers by launching a first-pitch heater from Orioles starter Andrew Cashner over the fence on the left-field corner. Arendado took 925 games to reach 200, trailing only Troy Glaus (903 games), Bob Horner (882) and Eddie Mathews (779) among major-leaguers who spent at least half their careers manning the hot corner. In Friday night’s series opener, Trevor Story reached 100 home runs faster than any other shortstop in MLB history.
But the all-star’s big blow was matched by an even larger one from the Orioles’ Jonathan Villar in the top of the fourth frame. The Baltimore second baseman was barred into Freeland from the beginning, following a double in the first frame and a single in the third with a three-run shot that bust a 4-4 tie.
Still, the hosts continued to chip away, tacking on runs via an RBI single from Arenado in the bottom of the fifth and on a solo homer by catcher Chris Iannetta an frame later, the latter pull the Rockies inside a run. That trickle of momentum was summarily blocked when Baltimore got two more back in the top of the seventh as Colorado relievers Seunghwan Oh and Jake McGee combined to surrender four hits, two earned runs and a walk in the frame.
Freeland came into the night with a 7.20 ERA in the first frame — up from a 3.00 mark in the opening frame a year ago — over his first 10 starts. Like a bad penny, the stumbles out of the gate turned up again: After surrendering a double to Villar, the game’s second hitter, and getting two outs, the lefty relinquished three straight singles, all of them rockets to left, as RBI knocks from Renato Nunez and Pedro Severino put the hosts in a 2-0 hole.
The former Thomas Jefferson High star worked a scoreless second before the Orioles extended the lead to 3-1 in the top of the third. With two outs, Nunez golfed the first pitch he saw from Freeland 436 feet into the stand in left.
More than a quarter into the season, Freeland’s efforts to return to 2018 form have instead flashed two unfortunate constants: He’s been hit hard, and hit hard extremely quickly. Last season, the lefty saw opponents post a batting average of just .227 the first time through the order and only .223 the second time. Going into the weekend, those numbers in 2019 had shot to .284 and .286, respectively.
The Orioles entered Saturday with a team OPS of .689 and an MLB-worst 3-13 record against left-handed starters. If Baltimore couldn’t cure whatever’s indisposed Freeland at the moment, you wonder where next Black and pitching coach Steve Foster turn to find thing that will.