|Braves host Rockies in battle of young lefties|
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves' Sean Newcomb got the better of the Colorado Rockies' Kyle Freeland on April 8 at Denver in a leadup to what will be an important rematch four months later.
The promising 25-year-old left-handers face each other Friday night at SunTrust Park with both teams in the hunt for National League division titles.
The Rockies (65-56) scored three times in the ninth inning for a 5-3 victory in the opener of the four-game series Thursday night, snapping a five-game winning streak by the NL East-leading Braves (68-52) and staying hot on the tail of Arizona in the NL West.
Newcomb (10-5, 3.40 ERA) and the Braves won 4-0 in the deciding contest of a three-game series in Colorado four months ago as the Massachusetts native struck out nine and walking none while giving up five hits in six innings.
Freeland (10-7, 3.02) gave up sixth-inning homers to Nick Markakis and Dansby Swanson while taking the loss, being charged with three runs on seven hits over his six innings.
Newcomb is 8-1 after an Atlanta loss.
Freeland, though, comes into the rematch off two strong seven-inning outings in his hometown of Denver, while Newcomb struggled mightily in his most recent start.
Pitching for the first time in Atlanta since missing a no-hitter by a strike two weeks earlier, Newcomb allowed 12 hits and five runs in four innings against Milwaukee in a fortunate no-decision last Sunday.
In contrast, Freeland followed a two-hit scoreless outing over seven innings in an Aug. 6 victory over Pittsburgh with 10 strikeouts, two runs allowed and six hits given up in a no-decision against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.
The Rockies saved Freeland a tough-luck loss against the Dodgers when Ryan McMahon homered with two on in the ninth inning for the 3-2 victory.
"I have that sense every single game we play with this offense," Freeland said after the dramatic comeback. "Look at us one through nine. We can do a ton of damage, and it showed right there in the ninth inning. We did not give up at all, Mac got a good pitch to put a good swing on, and he did all the damage."
Newcomb certainly would have deserved a loss against the Brewers, but the Braves also showed they can't be counted out by rallying for an 8-7 victory after being put in an early hole.
Newcomb needed 96 pitches in his four shaky innings and was fortunate to give up only five runs.
"One of those games," Newcomb said afterward. "You peek at the (radar) gun every once in a while and you see it's a little lower than you expected and you're like, 'OK, I just didn't have it.'"
Braves manager Brian Snitker agreed with that, saying, "He didn't have a feel for anything. It just wasn't clicking."
Although Newcomb and Freeland are in their second seasons, Friday will be the fourth time they have faced each other.
Neither got a decision in two meetings a season ago. Newcomb, who allowed three homers in a start at Colorado, posted a 5.91 ERA in 10 2/3 innings and Freeland was just a little better at 5.25 over 12 innings.
Markakis is 5-for-9 with two homers against Freeland, while Nolan Arenado is 5-for-9 with a home run facing Newcomb.