A two-week stretch between starts didn’t seem to bother rookie left-hander Kyle Freeland.
Freeland pitched six strong innings in his first start since taking a no-hitter into the ninth the day before the All-Star break, and the Colorado Rockies beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 13-3 on Sunday.
Trevor Story, pinch-hitter Pat Valaika and Mark Reynolds backed him by hitting two-run homers during a seven-run sixth. Reynolds connected for a second homer in the eighth, his second multihomer game of the season and 25th of his career.
Freeland (10-7), whose July 9 no-hit bid against the Chicago White Sox was broken up by Melky Cabrera’s one-out single in the ninth, allowed two runs on six hits while striking out three and walking two. He moved into a tie with teammate Antonio Senzatela for most wins among major league rookies this season.
“I felt like I could just jump right back in. I felt like I hadn’t missed a beat,” said Freeland, who threw three hitless innings between starts in his first career relief appearance July 15 against the New York Mets.
Freeland pounded the low zone with his sinker, fastball and slider and induced one groundout after another from Pirates batters, who didn’t have a hit reach the outfield until Josh Harrison’s double leading off the fourth.
“He kept the ball down,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Even with his misses, he kept attacking and he didn’t try to change his plan.
“If you keep hitting the ball to (All-Star third baseman Nolan) Arenado, that’s usually not a recipe for success.”
Indeed, in Freeland’s final inning, after giving up a leadoff homer to David Freese and walking Josh Bell, he retired three consecutive batters on grounders to Arenado.
“He creates top-hit action because his stuff is lively down in the zone,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He has the ability to pitch up and in at times and he’s got to do that to keep them honest. But his bread and butter is down, and we saw that today.”
Freeland also benefited from a surging Colorado offense that has averaged 10.6 runs over the last seven games.
“Our offense came out banging today,” Freeland said. “We got runs early and then we opened up the flood gates. They didn’t stop.”
Charlie Blackmon also homered among his three hits and Arenado had a pair of hits and three RBIs in helping the Rockies take two of three for their first series win against Pittsburgh in three years.
Bell and Starling Marte had run-scoring singles for the Pirates.
Leading 5-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Rockies put together their second-biggest inning of the season —they scored eight runs on two occasions — by sending 11 men to the plate and pounding out six of their 15 hits in the game.
Carlos Gonzalez had two hits in the inning, including a leadoff single. Story followed with a home run that chased Ivan Nova (10-7). Reliever Wade LeBlanc then walked Ryan Hannigan before Valaika drove the first pitch he saw into the left-field bleachers for his eighth home run.
Arenado hit a one-out RBI single ahead of Reynolds’ homer, his 21st of the season that pushed the Rockies’ lead to 10 runs.
Nova went five-plus innings and allowed a season-high seven runs on nine hits. He dropped to 0-3 with a 9.45 ERA in four career starts against Colorado.
“I missed a lot of pitches today up in the zone, in the middle of the plate and you can’t do that against a lineup like this,” Nova said. “But you have to able to turn the page.”