ROCKIES

Watch: Rockies’ Freeland freezes Ohtani, but also gives up blast in WBC Final

Mar 21, 2023, 8:10 PM | Updated: 8:16 pm

Kyle Freeland didn’t find himself in the most advantageous position when he stepped onto the mound in the bottom or the third inning in Miami on Tuesday night.

The U.S. national team already trailed Japan, 2-1. And the first batter looming was Shohei Ohtani as the heart of Japan’s lineup loomed, walking to the plate for the second time around in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic.

But Freeland delivered. After getting to a 3-2 count, Freeland caught Ohtani looking on a slider over the outside part of the plate.

And after surrendering a walk to the next batter, Matasaka Yoshida, Freeland got Munetaka Murakami to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.

But that was the high point for Freeland. Facing Kazuma Okamoto to open the bottom of the fourth inning, Freeland’s 86-mph slider was up and caught all of the plate, and Okamoto crushed it 407 feet to left center field to expand Japan’s lead.

Freeland settled down and retired six of the next seven batters. That included Ohtani, from whom he coaxed a grounder to second base in his second battle against the Angels superstar.

Those three innings capped the World Baseball Classic experience for Freeland. He opened by conceding an earned run in three innings to Great Britain in the U.S.’ first WBC game March 11. Freeland leaves the WBC with a 3.00 ERA.

The WBC was a substantially better experience for Freeland than for Rox reliever Daniel Bard, who was shelled this month. Bard allowed eight earned runs, five hits, four walks and two hit batters in just 1-2/3 innings of work in three WBC appearances. Heading into Tuesday, he lugged an ego-sapping ERA of 43.20 and a catastrophic WHIP of 5.40 from his work.

Freeland looks ready to go for the season. And he never looked more ready than in his two appearances against Ohtani on Tuesday. As for Bard, the less said, the better.

***

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Watch: Rockies’ Freeland freezes Ohtani, but also gives up blast in WBC Final