Nearly a no-no
Freeland just two outs short of Rockies’ first no-hitter at Coors Field
Ninety minutes before Kyle Freeland pitched the game of his life, a road map appeared by prophecy from somewhere in the ether, like watching a movie before it is filmed. We will never know the origin.
“I don’t have a crystal ball. I wish I had a crystal ball. But that would be no fun,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “That’s why we play. We all come to see what will happen. That’s the beauty of it. We don’t know.”
Oh, but he did know. Black knew down to the detail.
“You know what the first pitch of the game is going to be? I do,” Black said in Colorado’s dugout. “It’s going to be a fastball, intended to go down and away. I don’t know if it’s going to be a strike. I know it’s going to be a fastball. Two-seam fastball. I hope it’s 91 mph with action.”
Freeland’s first pitch Sunday on his way to more than eight innings of a no-hit bid was a 91 mph, twoseam fastball down and away for a called strike. Everything after it was laid out in near perfection in the Rockies’ 10-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Coors Field.
The 24-year-old rookie lefthander, Denver’s own, pitched 8L innings without allowing a hit, and dealt with just four baserunners, until Melky Cabrera lofted a soft single to left field with one out in the ninth. Jordan Lyles mopped up the final two outs in order.
“We went in-out, up-down, keep
them guessing on a lot of things,” Freeland said. “It was a good team win. It was fun to battle out there.”
Freeland’s dominating performance was the longest run of outs without a hit allowed by a Rockies pitcher in Coors Field history. Also, it was two outs shy of matching Ubaldo Jimenez’s nohitter for the Rockies in Atlanta in 2010, and was a hair short of matching Hideo Nomo’s no-no for the Los Angeles Dodgers on a shivering-cold September night in Denver in 1996.
It stands among the bestpitched home games in club history, which include Jon Gray’s 16strikeout victory last September. Freeland finished with nine strikeouts and just three walks. He hit one batter, Jose Abreu, on a disputed call in the fourth inning. When he went to the mound in the eighth, with anxiety running as high as his pitch count, even Freeland’s dad couldn’t watch.
“I think he ran away to hide,” Freeland said.
His pending no-hitter rolled into view with a buffer. Charlie Blackmon rocked his teamleading 20th home run to lead off a breakout five-run sixth inning, a 477-foot shot off the chicken sign behind the bullpens in rightcenter that was the longest Rockies homer this season.
Gerardo Parra then singled in Alexi Amarista, and shortstop Pat Valaika lined a three-run homer to the left-field bleachers as Colorado took a 7-0 lead.
Nevermind that Freeland, perhaps the club’s best hitting pitcher, struck out three times. His job is to throw, not swing. Seven of the other eight Rockies in the starting lineup got on base at least twice. Valaika’s single to right in the eighth gave him a career-high five RBIs.
But Freeland hit anyway. At 99 pitches, having thrown more than 100 only once in his career, but with a no-hitter in the hopper, Black let his rookie bat in the seventh. He lined a single to center to score Mark Reynolds, and the Rockies led 10-0.
Back in the seventh, Freeland finally faced some trouble. He walked Abreu to lead off. He walked Todd Frazier despite a ball-three call that should have been strike three. But his fastball broke the bat of Avisail Garcia, who grounded weakly to shortstop for a double play — the Rockies’ 101st double play this season, more than any other team in the majors.
So when he returned for the eighth, ready to pitch into unseen territory, Freeland had help. Coors Field fell strangely quiet between pitches, not for lack of attention but in genuine nervousness. Until Yolmer Sanchez blooped a soft flyball to left field, and Parra sprinted a line straight in front of himself and dived toward home to make a catch. LoDo came alive and Freeland was propelled. He struck out Omar Navarez, who flung his bat in a wild follow-through, and he whiffed pinch-hitter Willy Garcia on pitch No. 116.
“It was funny, after my last at-bat, after I popped up, I went straight to the dugout and put my glove on,” said third baseman Nolan Arenado. “I was like, ‘Dude I’m ready for this. Let’s go. I don’t even want to hit. I want to play defense.’ ”
Freeland dug deep to strike out Adam Engel to start the ninth; Engel also had K’d to open the game. Cabrera’s soft single to left field just over Arenado ended the nohit bid.
“I wasn’t thinking about anything else, just a good pitch to hit,” said Cabrera, who applauded Freeland at first base and shrugged his shoulders. “You have to give credit to him.”
Then the rest of Coors Field thundered in appreciation after Black pulled his pitcher. Freeland waved his cap while walking to the Rockies’ dugout.
“When I walked out of the dugout (to pitch the ninth inning) and the crowd gave a big roar, it was kind of a blackout moment,” Freeland said. “I made my pitch and he made a good enough swing to get it.”
He was a 16-year-old kid at Thomas Jefferson High School on Denver’s south side when Jimenez pitched the only no-hitter in Rockies history, in Atlanta on April 17, 2010. Jimenez gave up six walks in that game. The Rockies only once combined for a onehitter at Coors Field, in 2006, when Jason Jennings gave up the only hit in the first inning and two relievers helped him along.
Two years after Jimenez’s nohitter, Freeland pitched one of his own — in a high school game, senior year, over five innings for Thomas Jefferson against rival George Washington.
But no one could have predicted Freeland, in his first big-league season, just 18 starts into a career, might have the stuff for a Coors Field no-hitter. His 8-7 record coming in, with a 4.09 ERA, spelled an impressive start. But they were only baby steps. His manager’s pregame vision foresaw only one pitch. Freeland followed with 125 more, nearly all of them with purpose and conviction. He nearly did it.
“This game is played by human beings with emotion. And you just don’t know,” Black said. “I knew what the first pitch was going to be. But nobody knew he was going to take a no-hitter into the ninth. It was a great baseball game. It was great theater, great drama.”
Rockies rookie left-hander Kyle Freeland celebrates after getting through the eighth inning Sunday without allowing a hit against the White Sox.
Alexi Amarista scores for the Rockies during the sixth inning Sunday against catcher Omar Narvaez and the Chicago White Sox in the teams’ series finale at Coors Field.