Freeman toughs it out after crushing collision, 2 hit by pitches

ARLINGTON — Cleveland Guardians center fielder Tyler Freeman never played high school football after his dad told him to concentrate on one sport. He probably could have handled himself on the gridiron, like he did while taking some big hits on the diamond in Texas.

Freeman was plunked twice and was part of a crushing collision with shortstop Brayan Rocchio when the two went for a flyball during the Guardians’ 7-4 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday night.

“My head was spinning, and I had no idea kind of what happened, you know, where I was hit or anything,” Freeman said, describing the outfield collision in the fifth inning.

Freeman was clearly calling for the ball hit by Adolis García as he ran forward. He made the catch and held on even as Rocchio, who never heard his teammate, was running with his back to the infield and slammed directly into him.

“My stomach dropped. … I thought it was way worse,” Cleveland pitcher Ben Lively said. “And I’m so glad I got up there and everyone’s fine. Those are always scary.”

The shortstop’s glove went into the face of Freeman as they collided before falling to the ground. Three athletic trainers and manager Stephen Vogt ran from the dugout to check on the two players who stayed down for several minutes.

“Every time when I see a ball in the air, I’m going to try to go to the ball until I hear somebody,” Rocchio said.

Rocchio had a cut on his lower lip after the game and said his jaw was a little sore. Freeman said he had a cut on his tongue.

“Gets smoked by two pitches and an illegal hit on the fair catch in center field by Rocchio,” Vogt said of Freeman. “Thankfully they’re both OK. That’s why we can laugh about it. But those are two tough guys to get up from that.”

Freeman batted with one out in the sixth, and he was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. Then, in the bottom of that inning, he made a terrific catch alone in center field to take a hit away from Travis Jankowski.

“A diving catch right after he gets trucked. Just a great game for Free tonight,” Vogt said.

“Just got to stay tough,” Freeman said. “I’m trying to do my best to help this team win.”

In the ninth inning, No. 9 batter Rocchio drew a leadoff walk, moved to third when Freeman followed with a double and scored an insurance run on a sacrifice fly.

“If I get on base, I know 100 percent they’re going to bring me home,” Rocchio said. “That’s what we’re trying to do every time. Play to win.”