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Freeland right at home as Rockies host Phillies

DENVER -- Colorado Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland is thriving this season, particularly at Coors Field, which perhaps isn't all that surprising since the 24-year-old rookie was born and raised in Denver.

Freeland (11-7, 3.71 ERA) will try to continue his recent run of success Friday when he starts against the Philadelphia Phillies in the opener of a three-game series opposite Vince Velasquez (2-6, 4.91).

Freeland, who will be making his first career start against the Phillies, is 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA in his past four games. That stretch includes three starts and his only professional relief appearance July 15, when he pitched three scoreless innings.

During the four-game hot streak, Freeland has allowed six walks while striking out 20 in 22 1/3 innings.

At Coors Field, Freeland is 6-4 with a 3.21 ERA in 10 starts and has limited opponents to a .690 OPS. In 11 road games (10 starts), Freeland is 5-3 with a 4.22 ERA and an .822 opponents' on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

"You try to kind of pitch your same game, but as of late, I've had more success here at home," said Freeland, who leads major league rookies in wins, ERA and innings pitched (121 1/3). "I definitely see my pitches, especially my sinker moves more at sea level. But I think here kind of just knowing that the ball can fly a little further, it's more important to keep the ball on the ground.

"I think I kind of maybe focus in a little more, be a little more detailed with my pitches, where at sea level you have a little more room for error."

The Rockies won three of four games at Philadelphia in May. They just took two of three games from the visiting New York Mets, with each victory a 5-4 walk-off result. Colorado is 21-10-4 in series and owns a 33-20 home record.

The Rockies (62-47) trail the Arizona Diamondbacks by a half-game for the top National League wild-card spot, but more important, they lead the Milwaukee Brewers by 5 1/2 games for the second wild-card berth.

The Phillies (39-67) have won 10 of their past 17 contests despite beginning an eight-game road trip by getting swept in three games at the Los Angeles Angels. Philadelphia's 16-39 road record is the worst in the majors.

Velasquez, who is 1-0 with a 4.60 ERA in three career starts against Colorado, has made three starts since coming off the disabled list July 18.

He held the Rockies to one run and eight hits in five innings with one walk and seven strikeouts May 25 but wasn't involved in the decision when the Phillies won 2-1 in 11 innings. On May 30, Velasquez lasted 1 1/3 innings at Miami before leaving with a right elbow flexor strain that put him on the DL the following day.

In his most recent start, Velasquez held Atlanta scoreless for seven innings Sunday, allowing six hits and two walks and striking out six in a 108-pitch outing. The Phillies won 2-1, but Velasquez didn't figure in the decision.

After losing the first two games against the Angels 7-1 and 7-0, the Phillies lost 5-4 on Thursday night when Los Angeles scored two runs in the eighth. Rookie Nick Williams went 3-for-4 with two doubles, his fifth homer and two runs on Thursday, raising average to .294.

Williams, who made his major league debut June 30, has 21 RBI in 27 games. The 23-year-old rookie is notorious for swinging at the first pitch, causing teams to throw him fewer fastballs and forcing Williams to adjust.

"It's (about) being more of a selective first-pitch swinger," Phillies hitting coach Matt Stairs told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "You can change his thought process, looking for certain pitches the first time up. Earlier, he was getting a lot of fastballs and just crushing them. He wasn't missing them. Now he's seeing a lot more off-speed pitches.

"He needs to be a little more patient. But I don't want him to (reach) the point where he loses his aggressiveness and gets a breaking ball to hit and doesn't hit it."

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