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Heading into Thursday night’s game at Coors Field, Nolan Arenado didn’t anticipate that his emotions would overwhelm him.
In fact, he didn’t know what to expect when he stepped up to the plate in the first inning for his first at-bat in front of a sea of Cardinals and Rockies fans donning Arenado jerseys.
Rising to its feet, the crowd roared with applause, though there were some boos sprinkled in.
The Cardinals’ third baseman then took off his batting helmet and tipped it toward the crowd — a gesture of thanks to those who appreciated what he did during his eight years in Colorado.
Arenado admitted he was on the verge of tears.
“It hit me a little bit looking at the stands because sometimes when I hit homers I would point at the stands and give credit to them,” Arenado said before Friday night’s game. “It kind of reminded me of the good old days here a little bit. It was special and I’m really thankful for them appreciating me.”
Arenado said the moment was, “one of the better feelings I had in my career.”
His return to LoDo caused him to reminisce about his old routine after day games. That’s when he would drive down Speer Boulevard toward Cherry Creek, with the windows rolled down and his music blasting.
“It kind of reminds me of my rookie year, just driving down Speer was one of my favorite things to do to get in my own zone after games and decompress,” he said.
Despite the Cardinals dropping the series opener to the Rockies, 5-2, Thursday’s game was a homecoming for Arenado. Friday, he joked that he brought in Thursday’s rain delay. He also exchanged hugs with his former teammates and coaches.
But mostly, Arenado soaked up the affection he received from the fans.
“Sometimes when you do things in the past it gets kind of forgotten, but it was really cool that they didn’t forget about that,” he said.
Worm killers. Thanks in large part to the effective use of the changeup, Rockies starters entered Friday night’s game having induced 660 groundball outs this season, the most in the majors and almost 100 more than the next-closest team, the Cardinals (567). Also, Colorado starters are tied with Seattle’s with the most groundballs turned into double plays, with 49.
Injury updates. Right-handed reliever Mychal Givens (lower back strain) pitched his first rehab game on Thursday for Triple-A Albuquerque. In one inning, Givens allowed two hits and a run, striking out one. … Righty reliever Robert Stephenson continues to recover from his upper-back strain. He will likely be out at least another week.
Cardinals LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 5.60 ERA) at Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (1-2, 6.54)
7:10 p.m. Saturday, Coors Field
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM
After cramping up his right hamstring during his last start against Pittsburgh, Freeland is expected to step onto the mound for Saturday. The lefty is coming off a win against the Pirates when he tossed five scoreless innings before being removed with the injury. Freeland is 0-2 with a 4.76 ERA, nine strikeouts and five walks in his two career starts against the Cardinals. His last start against St. Louis was in 2018. LeBlanc, 36, is 2-3 against Colorado, with his last win against the Rockies coming in 2018, when he started twice against them as a member of the Mariners. This marks his second start for the Cardinals since being signed as a free agent on June 17. After four relief appearances, he made his starting debut against Arizona, pitching 4 1/3 scoreless innings before surrendering a home run.
Trending: After stealing the show in Thursday’s thrilling walk-off win, catcher Elias Díaz has now homered in each of his last three games — the longest streak of his career. The catcher also extended his hitting streak to five games. His career-best streak was six games in 2019.
At issue: Since being reinstated from the injured list June 22, utility player Chris Owings has gone 0-for-9 with one walk and seven strikeouts in five games. He was on the IL after undergoing surgery to repair a sprained left thumb he suffered April 9 against the Giants.
Sunday: Cardinals RHP Carlos Martínez (4-9, 6.38) at Rockies RHP German Marquez (7-6, 3.62), 1:10 p.m., ATTRM
Tuesday: Rockies RHP Jon Gray (5-6, 3.89) at Diamondbacks RHP Riley Smith (1-4, 6.02), 7:40 p.m., ATTRM
— Carly Ebisuya, The Denver Post