Kyle Freeland, Rockies keep defying odds, beat Dodgers 4-2 at Coors Field

The wiseguys in Vegas and the so-called analytics experts around baseball have lately pegged the Rockies as a team with about a 50-50 shot of making the playoffs. Fangraphs, for example, gives them a 47-percent chance.

The Rockies aren’t paying a lick of attention. And when left-hander Kyle Freeland takes the mound, they feel like they can go toe-to-toe with anyone, including the Dodgers, who have won five consecutive National League West titles.

A night after losing to Los Angeles, the Rockies rebounded with a 4-2 victory Saturday before a sellout crowd of 47,867 fans at Coors Field, getting home runs from Chris Iannetta and Charlie Blackmon off right-hander Walker Buehler.

Freeland, who’s putting together one of the best pitching seasons in Rockies history, seems to be taking it all in stride. In fact, after the game he teamed up with outfielder Gerardo Parra to beat special assistant Vinny Castilla and catcher Tony Wolters in a game of doubles ping pong.

“Yeah, it’s September baseball, but it’s another game in our eyes and we are going to play our type of baseball,” Freeland said. “We are not going to hype it up at all, we are going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

The win extended the Rockies’ lead over the Dodgers to 1½ games in the National League West. The two teams play the rubber game of the three-game series on Sunday afternoon. Third-place Arizona lost 5-4 to Atlanta in 10 innings, at home, falling 2 ½ games behind Colorado.

Asked about Freeland’s ability to perform well under big-game pressure, manager Bud Black shot back: “I think you saw from Kyle tonight what we’ve seen all year. Pressure is what you make of it. I get it. But our group will play at a high level of intensity, and will continue to embrace — your word — pressure. It’s great. Our guys want it, they want to be in this situation.

“But we can’t do anything different. We have to play at a nice, even keel, with fire, intensity and poise. And Kyle did that, man. He did great tonight.”

Freeland’s high-altitude joy ride continued. The 25-year-old Denver native pitched six innings of four-hit ball, walking two and striking out eight. His one big mistake was an 86 mph slider he left over the plate for Chris Taylor, who sent it 440 feet for a solo home run in the fifth, cutting Colorado’s lead to 2-1.

“We did a good job of keeping them off-balance and keeping them in a rocking chair,” said Freeland, who threw a first-pitch strike to 16 of the 18 batters he faced.  “The fastball and slider were very good. The backdoor (slider) wasn’t as great as it should be, but we were able to use the changeup and the curveball and keep them off-balance.”

Freeland’s overall ERA dipped to 2.91 and his record improved to 14-7. His Coors Field tally: 8-2 with a 2.21 ERA. Saturday marked Freeland’s 20th quality start, making him just the fourth pitcher in Rockies history with 20 or more quality starts in a single season. (Jason Jennings had 20 in 2006; Jason Marquis had 21 in 2009; and Ubaldo Jimenez had 24 in 2009 and 25 in 2010.)

A trio of three right-handers — Scott Oberg, Adam Ottavino and closer Wade Davis — put the game to rest, but not before the Dodgers put a scare into Davis. Cody Bellinger ripped a two-out triple to left-center and scored on Max Muncy’s double down the right-field line. With the big crowd roaring, Davis struck out pinch hitter Yasmani Grandal looking at a 3-2, 89 mph cutter.

Blackmon’s two-run home run in the fifth was so loud, so high and so majestic, it even caught the attention of the party-goers hanging out on The Rooftop above right field. Blackmon’s 24th home run of the season — but his first homer in 52 at-bats — scored Iannetta, who led off with a double.

Iannetta put the Rockies on the board with a leadoff home run off Buehler in the second. The stocky catcher, nicknamed “Sponge” (after Sponge Bob Squarepants), drove a first-pitch, 95 mph fastball the opposite way, just over the manual scoreboard in right field.

“(Buehler) just made a mistake and left (the pitch) in the middle third of the plate,” Iannetta said of the home run. “Last time I faced him, I think every pitch was like an inch off the black and just a perfect pitch. He made a mistake on two pitches tonight and I was able to get the barrel to it. So I was happy about that.”

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