Some 90 minutes before Kyle Freeland pitched the game of his life, a roadmap appeared by prophesy 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 on his way to more than eight innings of a no-hit bid was a 91-mph two-seam fastball down and away to Adam Engel for a called strike. Everything after it laid out in near perfection in the Rockies’ 10-0 blowout victory over the Chicago White Sox at Coors Field.
The 24-year-old rookie lefty, Denver’s own, pitched 8 1/3 innings without a hit, and just four baserunners, until Melky Cabrera lofted a soft single to left field with one out in the ninth.
It was the longest no-hit bid for a Rockies pitcher at Coors Field in 25 years, two outs shy of Ubaldo Jimenez’s no-hitter at Atlanta in 2010, and a hair short of Hideo Nomo’s no-no on a shivering-cold September night in Denver in 1996.
Freeland finished with nine strikeouts and just three walks. He hit one batter, Jose Abreu, on a disputed call in the fourth.
Charlie Blackmon rocked his team-leading 20th home run to lead off a breakout five-run sixth inning. His 477-foot shot off the chicken sign behind the bullpens in right-center was the longest Rockies home run this season.
Nevermind that Freeland, perhaps the club’s best hitting pitcher, struck out three times. His job is to throw, not swing. And seven of the other eight Rockies in the staring lineup got on base at least twice. Valaika’s single to right in the eight 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 Jose 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 baseball.
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 fly to left field, and Parra sprinted a line straight in front of himself and dove 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 struck out pinch-hitter Willy Garcia on pitch No. 116.
Freeland was a 16-year-old school kid at Thomas Jefferson High on Denver’s south side when Jimenez threw the only no-hitter in the Rockies’ 25-year history, on April 17, 2010, at Atlanta. Jimenez gave up six walks in that game. The Rockies only once combined for a one-hitter at Coors Field, in 2006, when Jason Jennings gave up the only hit in the first inning and two relievers helped him along.
No one could have predicted Freeland, in his first season, just 18 starts into a career, might have the stuff for a 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 pre-game vision foresaw only one pitch. Freeland followed with 125 more.
But Freeland dug deep to strike out Adam Engel to start the ninth, the same batter who whiffed to open the game. Cabrera’s soft single to left field over Nolan Arenado‘s head spoil the no-hit bid. Cabrera applauded Freeland at first base. Then the rest of Coors Field roared in appreciation after Black pulled him out. Freeland waved his cap walking to the dugout.