DENVER -- It was not the altitude that got the better of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Walker Buehler the last time in pitched at Coors Field, it was a rib injury he tried his best to ignore.
In a May 21 game in Los Angeles against the Rockies, Buehler was hit in the back by a line drive off the bat of Trevor Story. He stayed in that game and kept the Dodgers close in an eventual 2-1 defeat.
Just 12 days later, he was taking on the Rockies in Colorado, giving up four runs on eight hits over five innings, but with no home runs allowed. After one more start against the Atlanta Braves, Buehler was shut down with what was eventually diagnosed as a microfracture in the back of his ribcage.
It took a disabled list stint, an ill-advised big-league relief outing upon his return, and a short turn back in the minor leagues, but Buehler is once again looking like a dominating young starter.
The rookie will head into his start in Colorado on Saturday with some positive momentum this time, having given up just three earned runs over his last two starts, while changing the shape of his curveball.
In his last outing, Buehler (5-4, 3.63 ERA) picked up the victory to help the Dodgers avoid a sweep by the World Series champion Houston Astros, even though he gave up a pair of home runs. Those were the only two runs he allowed in 5 1/3 innings.
"(The curveball) just wasn't consistent enough and it wasn't a pitch I could get big league hitters out on so just adapt and adjust and go back to what I did pre (Tommy John) surgery," Buehler said referencing the procedure he had after he was drafted by the Dodgers in 2015.
Yet better health and positive momentum still might not be enough to top Saturday's scheduled Rockies starter Kyle Freeland (10-7, 3.04). The left-hander is 7-2 with a 2.81 ERA in 10 starts at Coors Field this season.
Heading into play Friday, Freeland's home ERA was fourth best in the National League and it ranked as the lowest in Rockies history for a single season.
Freeland is coming off a home outing Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates that only seemed to increase his confidence. He gave up just two hits over seven shutout innings.
"I felt good from the start, from my bullpen all the way to the seventh inning, really," Freeland told mlb.com. "I had command on my pitches and could throw them in any counts."
Buehler does not have a decision against the Rockies in six appearances over the past two seasons (two starts). He does have a 5.71 ERA against Colorado in 17 1/3 innings.
Freeland has made five starts against the Dodgers in his first two seasons, going 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA. He lost his only start against Los Angeles this year, giving up three runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings on May 23 at Dodger Stadium.
After the Rockies won a tight 5-4 decision Friday, the Dodgers held a 6-4 lead in the season series. It was the Dodgers' first defeat in five games at Coors Field this season and ended their six-game winning streak at Colorado dating back to last season.