Kyle Freeland turned around on the mound, and jumped in frustration as he watched Scott Heineman hit his slider into the left field bleachers.
That was one of five home runs Freeland gave up, as he missed his spots on all of his pitches on Friday night in Cincinnati. That was the most home runs given up by a MLB pitcher in 2021, and tied for the franchise record.
"You have to make pitches," manager Bud Black said. "Tonight Kyle didn’t make enough good ones. A very hot hitting team made him pay."
The Reds went on to win 11-5, and the road statistics continue to pile on for the Rockies: they are now an MLB-worst 5-25, have been outscored 162-78 away from Coors Field.
For Freeland, things have not clicked yet this season. He made his first start on May 25 in New York, after a shoulder strain left him sidelined for the first two months of the season. Entering Friday’s game, Freeland was already frustrated with his first three starts, especially after having positive rehab outings.
None, though, came close to his outing on Friday night at Great American Ballpark.
It started in the first inning, when Nick Castellanos made him pay on a fastball thrown down the middle. Heineman hit a slider to left-center for a two-run home run in the second. Joey Votto took advantage of a sinker sent right down the middle in the third, and Kyle Farmer nailed a high sinker in the fourth. The fifth inning dinger by Tyler Stephenson was the final straw for manager Bud Black, as Freeland was taken out in favor of Yency Almonte. Almonte and Lucas Gilbreath each allowed one run in the sixth.
"Right now I'm just not hitting spots, thats what its coming down to," Freeland said. "It's just not there."
After his first three starts, when he showed minor struggles, it could have been chalked up to trying to get used to pitching at the major league level again. Now, he said that's no longer applicable.
"That can’t be used as an excuse," he said. "These games count. Me not going out there and performing to my best ability is not going to help the ball club."
Freeland said that he made a few tweaks in between his last start and Friday night, and that he was disappointed that they didn't seem to make a difference. He said this feels similar to 2019, when things fell apart after a stellar season in 2018. In 2019, like currently, he also had trouble finding his location and gave up a career-high 25 home runs in 22 starts.
He did add that his shoulder, and body, are feeling fine.
In an ideal situation, Freeland likely would have been taken out far earlier than the fifth inning. But on June 10 in Miami, Chi Chi González and Jhoulys Chacin — their two long relievers — both put in multiple innings of work. Going to their bullpen too early on Friday would have left them even more depleted for the rest of the weekend.
Just like in Miami the day prior, the Rockies did show some signs of life, but they once again came too late. Connor Joe scored on a wild pitch in the sixth, and Ryan McMahon hit a three-run home run, his 14th of the season. Brendan Rodgers hit a solo home run in the eighth, his third of the week and of his career.