DENVER -- The Rox Rook was a virtuoso of virtual immaculate perfection.
"Myle High Kyle" Freeland pitched the game of his life in Denver Sunday.
For 8 1/3 innings at Coors Field he was as scorching hot as the 90-plus-degree afternoon sun. Freeland had tolerated nary a hit or a run for the Purple Rox against the White Sox.
Nobody had ever done this well for this long at home in the franchise’s quarter century of major league baseball.
How appropriate that the best pitching performance produced in LoDo for the Rockies was by Colorado’s own Kyle Freeland, who was born in Denver the same year as the Rockies – 1993.
He was only two outs away from only the second no-hitter in Coors Field – Hideo Nomo pitched the no-no for the Dodgers vs. the Rockies in September of 1996 – and just the second no-hitter by a Rockies pitcher – Ubaldo Jimenez pitched the only one in April of 2010 in Atlanta – and the second no-hitter of the season – Marlines pitcher Edinson Volquez threw the other last month.
Freeland had walked only three, two in the seventh (one after a horrific ball call), and hit one batsman (who had to persuade plate umpire Greg Gibson his left arm had been grazed). He struck out nine in 126 pitches – fastballs (mostly) sliders and sinkers.
White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was the sole Sox to reach twice – on the HPB and a BB. (Interesting enough, when Abreu left Cuba to join the majors, he chose Chicago over Colorado, and has become one of the stars in the game.)
Relying completely on his heater late in the game, Freeland was bailed out by a double play in the seventh and the diving catch by Gerardo Parra in left field in the eighth.
In the ninth, Freeland struck out the first batter and had Melky Cabrera with a 2-2 count when his high fastball was "muscled" (Freeland’s description) well over third baseman Nolan Arenado’s head and short of Parra.
The no-doubter single ended the no-hitter bid.
The crowd of 36,000 – none of who had departed prematurely – already was standing, but continued to give Freeland – in his first year in the majors (a late addition to the rotation out of spring training) – a standing ovation while manager Bud Black strolled to the mound and informed Freeland it was time to go in.
Freeland, in the grand tradition of baseball, tipped his cap on the way to the dugout to acknowledge the supporters in the stadium and certainly his teammates, who had scored 10 runs in support of the young man who turned 24 in May.
Of course, Freeland was disappointed and dissatisfied that he hadn’t made history, but he was more upbeat than upset afterward, preferring to talk about how the Rockies, who had been staggered over the past two weeks, go into the All-Star interlude on a grand scale with the shutout victory and a series victory.
The Rockies’ No. 1 draft pick three years ago was dressed down on the mound by Black in his last start at home. He responded to the public display by getting the next eight batters.
On Sunday, he retired 25 of 29 batters and threw 80 strikes. Freeland now has a 9-7 record with a 3.77 earned-run average in 107 1/3 innings.
Too bad it’s not 108 innings, and too bad Freeland didn’t become the 24th rookie in all of baseball annals to throw a no-hitter.
He will have probably 16 more opportunities to start this season, with half in Denver, and he can try again.
And there’s the postseason ahead.
I was at Coors Field on the night of Sept. 17, 1996, when the game’s start was delayed two hours because of rain, and temperatures hovered in the 40s. Obviously, the conditions were not ideal for baseball, and the Rockies were stifled by Nomo, who walked four and struck out eight – with Andres Galarraga, Dante Bichette and Vinny Castilla failing to scratch.
Intriguingly, Castilla is still with the Rockies as a special assistant to the general manager. Rox coach Darren Holmes also was on that team. He didn’t pitch that night, but in both that game and Sunday’s, Holmes was in the bullpen.
”Won’t you fly, free bird, yeah" are the lyrics to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird."
This Sunday, Kyle Freeland didn’t pitch a no-hitter, but he was a free bird a Mile High, and he flew.