Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland hangs his head after giving up a hit. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
DENVER -- Kyle Freeland, who was born and raised in the Mile High City, pitched his way into Colorado Rockies lore Sunday despite losing a no-hitter in the ninth in a 10-0 romp over the Chicago White Sox.
For 8 1/3 innings, the rookie held the White Sox hitless -- the most no-hit innings by a Rockies pitcher at Coors Field.
Freeland was tantalizingly close to pitching the second no-hitter in franchise history and the first by a Colorado pitcher at Coors Field when Melky Cabrera lined a single over the head of third baseman Nolan Arenado that finished Freeland's workday after 126 pitches -- 80 for strikes.
"Cabrera was able to muscle that fastball inside over Nolan's head," Freeland said. "I tip my cap to him. I made my pitch, and he put a good enough swing on it to get a hit."
Freeland, who was replaced by Jordan Lyles after giving up the base hit, was bidding to become the second pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Coors Field. Hideo Nomo accomplished the feat for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1996. The left-hander hit one batter and walked three in his 18th career start. He had a career-high nine strikeouts, all swinging.
Freeland, who was born 39 days after the first game in franchise history in 1993, had to summon his days pitching for Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver to remember the only no-hitter he has thrown -- a game ended by the mercy rule.
"I threw a no-hitter against George Washington High School," Freeland said. "We 10-runned them, so it was a five-inning no-hitter."
Cabrera, who singled on a 2-2 fastball clocked at 93 mph, said, "I just went to the plate and was looking for a good pitch to hit. I wasn't thinking about anything else, just a good pitch to hit."
The win in the rubber game of the series was just the fifth victory in 17 games for the Rockies, whose 52-39 record is a franchise best at the All-Star break.
Freeland's no-hit bid was the second longest by a Rockies pitcher and second longest at Coors Field.
Ubaldo Jimenez threw the only no-hitter in team history -- a 4-0 victory at Atlanta on April 17, 2010.
Nomo tossed the only no-hitter at Coors Field on Sept. 17, 1996. In Los Angeles' 9-0 victory, he walked four and struck out eight while throwing 66 of 110 pitches for strikes.
The Rockies scored two runs in the second inning and put the focus squarely on Freeland rather than the outcome with a five-run sixth. The latter rally began with Charlie Blackmon's home run that soared an estimated 477 feet, striking the back wall of the Chicago bullpen. Pat Valaika's three-run shot made it 7-0.
In Colorado's three-run seventh, Valaika had a two-run single, giving him a career-high five RBIs. Freeland singled home a run in that inning.
White Sox starter Carlos Rodon (1-2) gave up six runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Freeland was 0-3 with a 7.27 ERA in his previous three starts. In his last outing Tuesday against Cincinnati, Freeland received a lengthy fourth-inning lecture on the mound from Rockies manager Bud Black, who shooed away the infielders and held a stern one-on-one meeting with Freeland. The rookie then retired the next eight batters he faced.
"I knew I was in a rut, and he knew I was in a rut," Freeland said. "And it just motivated me. I said, 'You got the manager on you right now, so it's time to really grind and make a change.'"
On Sunday, Freeland (9-7) retired the first 11 Chicago batters he faced before nicking Jose Abreu with a pitch. He walked Omar Narvaez to open the sixth. Narvaez moved to second on a sacrifice by Rodon, took third on Adam Engel's grounder to shortstop. However, Freeland retired Cabrera on a fly to short center.
Freeland walked Abreu and Todd Frazier to start the seventh. Chris Rusin began loosening up in the Colorado bullpen, but Freeland got Avisail Garcia to ground into a double play and retired Tim Anderson on a fly to right.
"I thought he pitched inside extremely well, both in off the plate and for strikes," Black said. "I thought his slider-cutter was much better than it's been the last four starts. I thought the fastball away had great action."
Freeland said "it was a ton of fun to battle out there" and that he was in synch with catcher Ryan Hanigan, who caught both no-hitters thrown by Cincinnati's Homer Bailey.
"I liked that he used his emotion but didn't let it mess up his mechanics," Hanigan said. "He still kept really executing pitches, but he was pumped. He was real aggressive, just letting it loose and (had) really good fastball command. It was a consistent, solid day all the way through."
Lyles retired the two batters he faced to complete the shutout.
NOTES: Colorado LHP Kyle Freeland, who has pitched 107 1/3 innings in his first 18 career starts, is scheduled to begin the second half in the bullpen to limit his innings but likely will return to the rotation around July 25.
... Rockies RHP Jon Gray will start the first game in New York against the Mets on Friday after the All-Star break, followed by RHP Tyler Chatwood and RHP Jeff Hoffman. RHP Antonio Senzatela will start on July 18 against San Diego. Either Freeland or RHP German Marquez will oppose the Padres on July 17. ... Rockies RF Carlos Gonzalez, who wasn't in the lineup the past two games, started and batted seventh for the first time since Aug. 1, 2009. ... White Sox RF Avisail Garcia returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sprained right middle finger. ... White Sox RHP Nate Jones (right elbow neuritis) will be re-evaluated during the All-Star break. He felt uncomfortable throwing on flat ground Friday.