First place not an option for Rockies in finale vs. Padres

The Sports Xchange

September 01, 2018 at 11:58 pm.

SAN DIEGO — Whatever the Colorado Rockies do Sunday afternoon in the finale of a four-game series against the Padres at Petco Park, they cannot regain first place in the National League West.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks go into Sunday tied for first in the division with identical 74-62 records. The Rockies, who defeated the Padres 4-2 on Saturday night after losing two straight against the division cellar-dwellers, are a half-game back and in third in the division at 73-62.

If the Rockies defeat the Padres on Sunday to gain a split of their four-game series, Colorado will be second in the National League West, and still a half-game off the lead.

If the Rockies lose for the third time in four games to the Padres, they will remain in third, but slip to 1 1/2 games off the lead with 26 games to play.

The Rockies get a chance to split after D.J. LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado ended some dubious streaks for the offense.

LeMahieu’s homer ended Colorado’s 21-inning scoreless streak and a run of 28 innings without an extra-base hit. Arenado’s hit ended a career-worst 0-for-19 skid and snapped Colorado’s stretch without consecutive hits at 118 at-bats.
“The way we’ve hit the last two days, it felt like we hadn’t won in, like, a month,” LeMahieu said. “When we can get that lead early like that, it was a good feeling, for sure.”

Looking forward, the future appears bright for the Rockies. After Sunday, they return to Coors Field to open a 10-game homestand Monday afternoon against the Giants. Overall, 17 of the Rockies’ final 26 games will be played in the rarified air of Denver, where they are 34-30.

Colorado on Sunday will send left-hander Kyle Freeland (12-7, 2.90 ERA) out against Padres rookie right-hander Jacob Nix (2-2, 4.05), who will be facing the Rockies for the second time in his fifth major league start.

The 25-year-old Freeland has the lowest ERA among the Rockies starters as well as the lowest opponents’ batting average (.236) and the lowest WHIP (1.24). Freeland also leads the Rockies with 164 1/3 innings pitched and will be making his team-leading 28th start.

Freeland also ranks among the National League leaders in two categories that won’t help him Sunday.

He ranks fourth in the league in home ERA with a 2.27 mark, which is doubly impressive since it was compiled at Coors Field. And he ranks fourth in the league with a 2.50 ERA in night games.

Freeland is 7-2 in 12 starts at home this season while going 5-5 with a 3.44 ERA in 15 starts on the road.

Freeland is also finishing the season strong. He was 3-1 in August with a 2.15 ERA in six starts, striking out 42 in 37 2/3 innings with 15 walks and a .230 opponents’ batting average. He is 6-1 with a 2.16 ERA over his last 13 starts with the Rockies going 11-2.

Freeland is 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA in seven career appearances (five starts) against the Padres. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three previous games (two starts) at Petco Park.

Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Nix is coming off his best start. Tuesday night at Petco Park, Nix threw 8 1/3 shutout innings against Seattle before Nelson Cruz homered. Nix throws to contact. He needed only 79 pitches (58 strikes) while allowing eight hits without issuing a walk or recording a strikeout.

He lowered his ERA from 6.17 to 4.05 on Tuesday. His previous start was against the Rockies at Coors Field on Aug. 22 when he allowed three runs on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts in five innings. Nix has issued only five walks in 20 innings and only one in his last 13 1/3.