MIAMI (TNS) — With the fuzzy feelings and hype of opening day put to bed for another year, Rockies all-star shortstop Trevor Story looked ahead. He likes what he sees.
"This shows what we can do," he said Thursday evening after the Rockies beat Florida, 6-3, at Marlins Park. "When we get solid pitching, we're tough. And our lineup is long and deep, and it can be dangerous when we string hits together like we did today."
It's that basic blueprint, along with sturdy defense, that has the Rockies believing they can win the first National League West title in franchise history.
The foundation was laid by seven superb innings supplied by left-hander Kyle Freeland, who allowed one run on just two hits, struck out five and walked one in the first opening day start of his young career. His only big mistake was a 1-0 fastball down the middle that pinch hitter JT Riddle roped into the right-field seats in the sixth.
Colorado's offense, so often punchless in southern Florida through the years, cranked out nine hits, including a 3-for-4 day by left fielder David Dahl, and a long solo home run by Story in the fifth. It was Story's third opening day home run, tying a club record.
But Freeland, as he was for much of last year when he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting, was the big story.
"Kyle held his stuff, although he tired a little bit in the seventh," manager Bud Black. "But Kyle pitched great. I thought he kept his composure a couple of times when they stressed him. I thought there was good use of the changeup. He and (catcher) Chris (Iannetta) worked well together. I thought he was outstanding."
Freeland coaxed Miami into 12 groundball outs, including getting Miguel Rojas to ground out to third baseman Nolan Arenado with two on and one out in the seventh. That out, followed by Rosell Herrera's pop out to Charlie Blackmon in right field, quashed the Marlins' would-be rally.
"If you can get the ball on the ground, with the defense we have, you have many opportunities for big outs, and that's what we're trying to do there," said Freeland. "My whole game is really about attacking, getting weak contract and letting the defense work."
Colorado has won 16 of Freeland's 18 past regular-season starts, and he's 11-1 with a 2.53 ERA in that span.
Colorado's four-run fourth inning illustrated what the Rockies believe their offense can do if it sticks to the plan. Using their speed and pushing the action, they took advantage of sloppy Miami defense. After Nolan Arenado led off with a double, Story turned on the jets down the first base line and forced shortstop Miguel Rojas to misfire. That error opened the gates, with Dahl smacking an RBI single and Ryan McMahon adding a hit on a run-scoring single and ending up at third when center fielder Lewis Brinson allowed the ball to scoot under his glove. Iannetta capped off the inning with a run-scoring double.
Thursday marked just the fourth time in 25 games at Marlins Park that Colorado scored four or more runs in an inning. All-time, Colorado is just 8-17 in the building.
The one part of the blueprint the Rockies that remains a concern is their shaky bullpen. Right-hander Scott Oberg gave up a solo home run in the eighth to pinch hitter Neil Walker and righty Seunghwan Oh gave up a solo shot in the ninth to Jorge Alfaro.