Kyle Freeland’s loudest out Saturday was a punch. Two on, two out in the sixth in a one-run game. The 23-year-old left-hander, an anchor in the Rockies’ rookie-heavy rotation, threw a sinkerball to strike out a Giants threat, whiffing pinch-hitter Brandon Belt.
“Big at-bat, he got him,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “Thing about the strikeout is, the ball doesn’t leave the field.”
But neither do groundballs. Freeland forced 15 groundballs among the 22 the Giants put in play Saturday in the Rockies’ 5-1 victory, a rate by which the Denver native is conquering Coors Field. His 58.7 percent groundball rate this season is the best in the National League, followed closely by Colorado veteran Tyler Chatwood (58.4 percent) and San Diego’s Clayton Richard (58.3).
Freeland, by extension, is translating all those groundballs into a Coors Field anomaly. He is allowing very few home runs, eight total this season, none from the Giants on Saturday. His 0.89 home run per nine innings ratio ranks 10th best in the NL.
“Being a sinker-heavy pitcher, it plays into my game,” Freeland said. “I can go back-to-back-to-back sinkers and have a good chance of getting a groundball.”
Sure, groundballs depend on defense and bad luck will squirt a single through gaps in the infield to get runners on. But Freeland does not care much for relying on strikeouts.
“Not really, no,” he said. “You go for strikeouts when you can. Bottom of the order, nobody on, you have a 1-2 count, you can bounce one in the dirt and try to get him to chase. But my game throughout the season is to throw sinkers and get groundballs.”
Said Black: “You know what you need? You need outs without them scoring runs. However you produce that combination, we’ll take it.”
Catcher rhubarb. When former Rockies and current Giants catcher Nick Hundley scored from second base in the fourth inning, he lowered his shoulder and plowed through Colorado catcher Tony Wolters while crossing home plate. It led to a stare down as Hundley walked off the field.
When Wolters came to bat in the bottom of the fourth, they bumped fists and all was well again.
“We’re good. I texted him to apologize,” Wolters said. “I was trying to deke him as long as I could. And he clipped me a little bit.”
Otto’s roll. Right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino struck out two in a quick eighth inning, his second consecutive two-K, 1-2-3 outing. After missing 10 days in early June with a sore shoulder, and despite a two-run outing that led to a loss at Pittsburgh last week, Ottavino seems to have found form.
“Let’s hope so. I think he’s in a good spot,” Black said.
Ottavino has struck out nine of the 19 batters he faced and walked just one, lowering his ERA to 2.84.
“The last two outings are more reflective of what he can do,” Black said. “Crisp fastball, breaking ball. We haven’t seen the real wide pitches.”
CarGo going. Carlos Gonzalez dove and slid into the right-field wall in fifth to steal a hit from Buster Posey, eliciting a pointed shoutout from Freeland as they walked off the field.
And including a line-drive single in the second, Gonzalez reached base three times and scored twice. He now has hits in consecutive games for the first time since June 2, after snapping an 0-for-27 skid Friday.
“As much as people think he might be in a funk, he’s still dangerous,” Black said.
Giants LHP Ty Blach (4-4, 4.24 ERA) at Rockies RHP Tyler Chatwood (6-7, 4.16), 1:10 p.m. Sunday, ROOT; 850 AM
Blach, a Regis Jesuit High School graduate, will make his first start against the Rockies. He moved from the Giants’ bullpen to the rotation to help replace injured ace Madison Bumgarner. Chatwood, meanwhile, will make his second start this season against San Francisco. He has given up only four runs in 15 innings against the Giants for a 2.40 ERA, including a nine-inning shutout in April. Chatwood has a 1.35 ERA in his past three outings, all on the road. His season road ERA is 2.41. At Coors Field, it is 7.03.
Tuesday: Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.00 ERA) at Rockies RHP German Marquez (5-3, 4.19), 6:40 p.m., ROOT
Wednesday: Diamondbacks RHP Taijuan Walker (5-3, 3.32) at Rockies RHP Jeff Hoffman (4-0, 2.25), 6:40 p.m., ROOT