By Arnie Stapleton, AP sports writer
DENVER (AP) — Ever since he was a kid, Kyle Freeland dreamt of taking the mound at Coors Field for his hometown Colorado Rockies.
“It couldn’t have gone any better,” the 23-year-old left-hander said after winning his major league debut, 2-1 over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.
Freeland (1-0) gave up four hits with a pair of walks and struck out six, including the first batter up. He also singled off Hyun-Jin Ryu.
“That’s another first to knock off: big league win, big league knock,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. ” … The people of Denver should be very proud of their native son.”
Freeland became the first starting pitcher to make his big league debut in his team’s home opener in the state in which he was born since 1966.
The eighth overall pick of the 2014 draft, Freeland grew up not far from the Rockies ballpark and used to participate in pregame youth baseball parades around the warning track at Coors Field. Because his parents wouldn’t let him skip school, this marked the first home opener he’d ever attended.
“I was trying to play it cool, that’s for sure. Butterflies were definitely flying around in my stomach,” Freeland said. “I had pregame jitters, especially for a home opener and my debut, but I tried my best to stay focused.”
Freeland figures Friday’s crowd of 49,169 was about 49,000 more than saw him the last time he pitched in Denver, during the playoffs his senior season at Thomas Jefferson High School in 2011.
Freeland came out early to soak in the atmosphere, then settled his nerves and went right to work, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first and never really letting the Dodgers settle in. His only blemish was Enrique Hernandez’s run-scoring groundout in the fourth.
“To say he had adrenaline today was an understatement,” Rockies catcher Dustin Garneau said. “But it was almost a good thing that he had that bases-loaded jam when he had to pitch through that in the beginning to kind of get that adrenaline to kind of flush out of his system. Because after that, he really settled in and became Kyle Freeland, and you guys all saw it.”
Black said he never sensed the moment getting too big for the 6-foot-4 rookie.
“I know he wasn’t calm, but he looked calm,” Black said, adding: “He was composed. He was great in between innings.”
In between the lines, too.
Colorado’s bullpen again came up big as Carlos Estevez and Scott Oberg each threw a scoreless inning before Jake McGee hit 98 mph and struck out the side in the ninth for his first save of the season.
This marked the second time in franchise history (April 28-29, 1995, at Houston) that the Rockies won back-to-back 2-1 games.
Ryu (0-1) came up short in his quest to win for the first time since Aug. 31, 2014. The Dodgers left-hander made just one start last season, on July 7, between stints on the DL because of left shoulder surgery and left elbow tendinitis.
“I didn’t feel any discomfort or pain in my shoulder and elbow, which is always a great sign,” Ryu said through a translator.
Ryu allowed two runs and six hits over 4 2/3 innings. He gave up an RBI single to Nolan Arenado in the first and a solo homer to Garneau off the left field foul pole to begin the fifth.
“You hold a team like that to two runs, you expect to win,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Chuck Dobson of the Kansas City Athletics was the previous pitcher to debut by starting his hometown team’s first home game, on April 19, 1966 against the Twins.
Dodgers: LHP Rich Hill was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand. RHP Josh Fields was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Rockies: The Rockies wanted RHP Chad Bettis to be on hand for opening day festivities, but he had to stay back in the Phoenix area, where he’s receiving chemotherapy after doctors discovered his testicular cancer had spread to his lymph nodes last month.
Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw makes his second start of the season. Kershaw is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA.
Rockies: RHP Jon Gray makes his second start. He was the Rockies’ opening day starter at Milwaukee last week and was cruising until a bad fifth inning sent him to the showers, leaving him with a no-decision and an 11.25 ERA.