Friedrich outshines Lee to open second half strong

Friedrich outshines Lee to open second half strong

Friedrich outshines Lee to open second half strong
DENVER -- Rockies rookie right-hander Christian Friedrich's agent arranged for him to spend offseason time in Arkansas with Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee. Lee worked out and threw, and Friedrich joined and copied the veteran leader.

Friedrich showed what he learned Friday night, shutting down the Phillies for six innings of a 6-2 victory at Coors Field in front of 33,346.

"I learned so much from observing him, his workouts and work ethic, the way he throws the ball," Friedrich said. "We had conversations but it wasn't always about baseball, just small talk and stuff."

It's not as if Friedrich had much experience to share. He was a No. 1 Draft pick who hadn't pitched a game above Double-A. Lee was a three-time All-Star and 2008 Cy Young Award winner.

But Friedrich (5-6) struck out seven and gave up one run on five scattered hits over six innings to outperform Lee (1-6), who gave up nine hits and three runs (two earned) in six innings.

"I think it gave me a little more of a competitive edge," Friedrich said. "I don't think he's seen me throw besides maybe on TV or something. So you want to show him what you've got. To go head-to-head is something I didn't think was going to happen last offseason at any point in time. It was kind of cool the way it worked out."

Lee said, "A rookie, in this ballpark, he's doing well. Going six innings and giving up one run, that's pretty good."

Friedrich's performance tied for the second-most innings of his career and tied for his longest since the Rockies went to a four-man rotation with a conservative pitch count. He threw 82 pitches Friday night. It was just the third win by a Rockies starter since June 4, but those three have come in the past seven games, and the Rockies have won four of those.

Friedrich had gone 1-3 with a 9.62 ERA at Coors Field this season. Even more, Friedrich showed that he learned from his last outing. He had given up one run in four innings, but a walk to the opposing pitcher led to his fifth inning spinning out of control. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Cardinals.

On Friday, he rebounded from Jimmy Rollins' one-out RBI double in the third to not suffer further damage. In the sixth, he walked Ryan Howard with two outs but rebounded to fan Carlos Ruiz swinging.

"He is a good learner," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "Evidence of that is this thing we're doing with using a four-man rotation, as quickly as he's gravitated to it. Several of them are really grabbing hold of the word 'efficiency' -- the importance of throwing strikes and the importance of commanding your fastball in the strike zone."

Friedrich's quick tempo was mainly responsible for the game lasting just 2 hours, 37 minutes.

"You want to make sure you go out there and finish the job," said Friedrich, who won for the first time since June 4, when he threw seven strong innings at Arizona.

Friedrich wasn't the only rookie with a big night as the Rockies (34-52) opened the second half impressively while the Phillies (37-51) continued their unexpectedly struggling first-half ways.

Shortstop Josh Rutledge, called up from Double-A Tulsa because first baseman Todd Helton went to the disabled list Friday with right hip soreness, doubled in a run with his first at-bat, singled in his second and added an RBI with a sacrifice fly his third Major League plate appearance. Rutledge followed that by drawing a seventh-inning walk from reliever Michael Schwimer and stealing second.

"I can't even describe the feeling," Rutledge said.

It wasn't just a night for rookies.

Left fielder Carlos Gonzalez celebrated his first All-Star appearance on Tuesday with three hits, including a double. Michael Cuddyer, who has found his swing this month after a .212 batting average in June, doubled, tripled and scored twice. Catcher Ramon Hernandez singled in a run after missing 42 games with a left hand strain.

Cuddyer said the Rockies' better play recently has to do with the pattern of improved pitching.

"Our rotation has stabilized a little -- you're still going to go through growing pains, ups and downs, but the guys over the last two weeks have thrown considerably better," Cuddyer said. "We've played good baseball. We've played quick games. That means a lot because the pace of the game is quicker, it gets us into the dugout quicker and we can swing it more."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.