Rockies waste wonderful Kyle Freeland start, crumble late against the Nationals

Sustained prosperity remains an elusive proposition for the Colorado Rockies.

The Rockies were three outs from an improbable series win against the Washington Nationals, before a calamitous top of the ninth inning Sunday afternoon.

Colorado wasted a wonderful start from Kyle Freeland in his return from the injured list, and the Nationals rallied to collect a smash-and-grab 2-1 victory in front of 30,407 at Coors Field. Freeland and Nick Mears had stymied the Washington bats with a combined eight innings of one-hit ball before the Nationals scored twice on Jalen Beeks.

Lane Thomas doubled home CJ Abrams, and then Joey Meneses singled to score Thomas and give the Nationals the lead. Abrams was at second because of a wild pitch, though he might have scored on Thomas’ shot into the right-field corner anyway.

Thomas was at third base instead of second ahead of a Meneses line drive to center because of a stolen base. That took away the need for a potential game-altering decision for Washington’s third base coach.

The Rockies tried to rally for a second-straight win against Washington closer Kyle Finnegan, but he struck out the last two hitters of the game with two runners on to seal the Nationals victory.

Freeland was masterful for the Rockies. He went 5 1/3 before allowing a hit in his first start for the club since April 14.

The one hit he allowed was a slow chopper down the third-base line. Ryan McMahon’s throw ended up down the right-field line, giving Jacob Young a hit and two bases on the error. Young had just drawn a smattering of boos for attempting to bunt on the first pitch of the at-bat.

With Young at third and one out, Freeland collected his third and fourth strikeouts of the game against CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas to end the threat, unleashing a demonstrative yell after what would be his final pitch of the day.

Freeland through 69 pitches, needing more than 13 only once — in the sixth when he struck out the side. He walked one batter and only faced a three-ball count three times.

His first innings featured all kinds of weak contact and 14 consecutive outs on balls in play after a leadoff strikeout. He induced seven swings and misses in the sixth inning, five more than he had in the first five combined.

It was easily the best start of the season for Freeland, and the first time he’s gone six innings without allowing a run since May 14 of last season.

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Freeland missed more than two months with an elbow strain. He allowed 25 runs (23 earned) over his first four outings of the season, including 10 on opening day against the Diamondbacks.

Michael Toglia crushed a home run in the bottom of the second inning to open the scoring. Toglia’s blast traveled 462 feet into the second deck in right field.

It was the seventh home run of the season for Toglia, and the longest of his MLB career by 35 feet. It also matched Ryan McMahon’s homer from Thursday night against the Dodgers as the joint longest by a Colorado hitter in 2024.

Other than Young reaching third base on an error in the sixth, neither team threatened to produce much offense on this hot afternoon in Denver. The Rockies had two guys on in the first, but that was the only multi-runner frame of the contest until the Nationals scored in the ninth.

The guy pitching opposite Freeland was one pitch from matching him. Washington’s Jake Irvin matched a career high with 10 strikeouts, including nine of the final 13 batters he faced. He allowed only the Toglia home run and a couple of singles. No other batter reached third base against him.

Colorado Rockies’ Michael Toglia reacts after striking out against Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jake Irvin to end the fourth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, June 23, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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