The Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland, born in Denver the year the team came to town, and a Thomas Jefferson High School graduate, just struck out six Chicago Cubs in 6 2/3 scoreless innings Tuesday as the Rockies beat the Cubs 2-1 to advance to the National League Division Series.
The game was epic: Its 13-innings took 4 hours and 55 minutes, making it the longest win-or-go-home game ever. Still, Freeland took a few minutes Wednesday to talk about the Cubs game, what comes next, and his gratitude for the Rockies’ fans.
Edited highlights from the conversation are below:
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What was going through his mind when he took the mound at Wrigley Field in Chicago, pitching for the team he grew up rooting for?
"It’s crazy. That atmosphere inside Wrigley Field is like no other. I feel like the only thing to compare it to is Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park. I hadn’t played there yet in my career. But going through my warmups, going through my stretches, getting loose and everything, it was wild. You know, you did everything you could to control your heart rate, control your adrenaline. But you know sometimes those things just I kind of take over in game. It helped me out last night [when] there was a few times I stepped off the mound, you know I just really felt the the crowd, the energy from the crowd, and it was crazy, just blistering noise."
Could anything have possibly prepared him for that kind of moment?
"No not really I mean I spoke with Tom Murphy (a catcher in the Rockies organization) last year when were in Arizona playing the wild card game. I member we turned to each other, like you can't prepare for this the kind of atmosphere, this kind of energy. It’s impossible. The only way you can prepare for ot is by living through it, going through it on your own, finding ways to have success. So I kinda tapped into that feeling I had last year, even though I wasn’t even playing in the game. Just remembering how it felt, and knowing what I needed to do to control my motion, control my adrenaline and keep my focus where it needs to be."
Freeland was born in 1993, the same year as the Rockies inaugural season. ESPN last night showed a photo of Freeland as a baby in a Rockies onesie. What did that feel like?
"That picture first came out last year when I had my debut. I just shows I grew up as a Rockies fan. Loved watching them obviously. Could see my parents were excited that a team was coming to Denver, having a franchise in the city. My dad being a being a pioneer of Denver Colorado, him and his family, I know he was super excited. Seems like they they want to immediately get me being a fan."
On what it was it like going to those games back in the 90s as a kid, from the point of view of someone now guiding the team through the playoffs:
"I remember going to a lot of games growing up. Always remember first walking into the stadium, you know, walking through the concourse and then coming over and seeing the opening of the baseball field, and thinking how absolutely massive it is ... it's larger than life. And you know at that age it's it's easy to see that, and now being able to pitch on that field, for that team is just extremely surreal for me. I soak it in as much as I can."
On going up against Jon Lester, the pitcher for the Cubs who has won three World Series rings:
"I mean, the guy puts his pants on the same way I do. You're really not competing against him, you're competing against the lineup and you can't be intimidated by who's out there. Obviously you're aware of it, like you said, he’s got three World Series rings, he's an incredible pitcher, a possible future Hall of Famer, you’ve got to be aware that fact and you’ve definitely got to tip your cap to him, for what he’s accomplished in his career. But at the same time you’ve got to go out there and you got to take care of your business."
On the reaction from fans:
"Yes it is going crazy. Social media’s been nuts. Text messages. A lot of phone calls. I’m still trying to sift through all that as they keep coming in but it it's fun, you know, it just shows the amount of people that want to share this experience with with me and my teammates and and and be connected to it somehow."
Now the Rockies play the Milwaukee Brewers. What does the team expect?
"It’s no easy ride. No one said was going to be easy. With this travel, you know what, we're gonna keep doing what we’ve been doing, grinding out, finding ways to win doing our thing we've been doing all season long and it's going to be you know that much sweeter when we had a look back and be like you know we we accomplished this when you know the the odds were against us. We're we're excited for the future."