Before Kyle Freeland threw the best game at Coors Field by a Colorado Rockies pitcher, manager Bud Black was musing in the dugout whether he’d like to have a crystal ball. The thing is Black doesn’t really need one. ‘Where’s the fun in that?’ he exclaims. He predicted that Freeland would throw a low and away fastball to White Sox leadoff hitter Adam Engel and he would probably take it. Of course, that is exactly what happened.
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But the beauty of baseball is that it defies every odd. It’s unpredictable. It poetry in motion and we watch because anything can happen. Even the seemingly impossible like a no-hit bid at Coors field. There’s no way Black could have predicted what was to follow. That’s just how Buddy prefers.
Pitchers aren’t supposed to pitch well in Denver. Freeland wasn’t supposed to be defying the odds by tying the club wins record, especially as a rookie. There is no way he could bounce back from three tough starts. There is no supposed to with these Rockies. Defying those odds did not go unrecognized by Freeland’s home town crowd hanging on every pitch. When Freeland’s bid for a no-hitter ended, that did not stop the mesmerized crowd from standing to their feet for a raucous and well deserved ovation.
"“It was awesome when I walked out of the dugout and the crowd gave me a big roar. Going through that was kind of a blackout moment,” Freeland said. “It was a ton of fun to battle out there in the ninth. Tip your cap to [Cabrera]. I made my pitch.”"
"“Just from my experience with Kyle I knew it was going to be 91 mph and it was. But after that you don’t know. Didn’t know he was going to take a no hitter into the ninth. It was great. It’s great theater,” Black said."
The 8.1 innings of no-hit ball are the most by any Rockies pitcher at Coors Field. The only pitcher to do it better than Freeland is Hideo Nomo who threw a no hitter for the Dodgers against the Rockies at Coors Field in 1996. Ubaldo Jimenez threw the club’s only no-hitter. Freeland’s performance was just as impressive, if not more so, as he only walked three and struck out nine. That strikeout total is a career high.
Another career high that was lingering was Freeland’s pitch count. The most pitchers he ever threw in a game before his no-hit bid was 110. The 24-year-old lefty left the game with 126 pitches. He laughed when he was asked if he had anything left in his arm.
"“I had as much as my adrenaline would let me,” Freeland said smiling. “That’s what kept me going those last two or three innings. Location of the fastball was working very well for us. The slider played well. I think we only threw one change and no curves so it was fastball slider all day long.”"
Freeland said he didn’t regret the pitch he made to Melky Cabrera who broke up his no-hit bid with a one-out single in the ninth inning. Freeland and Hannigan were on the same page busting Cabera inside with a fastball because that was what was working the entire game.
Black said he thought Freeland’s slider and cutter was much better than it’s been his last four starts. He also liked that catcher Hanigan was forceful at times with Freeland’s pitch selection. Hanigan knows what he is doing. This isn’t his first no-hit bid. He caught both of Homer Bailey’s no-hitters in Cincinnati. Hanigan said this kind of performance you can’t see early on.
"“Until the seventh it’s not even on my mind,” he said. “You have to get information on how you got hitters out. Then you got a chance. That was the main thing was he had great fastball command. Both sides. I like that he uses emotion but didn’t let it mess up his mechanics.”"
Freeland commented on how impactful Hanigan was on keeping his focus. That was most prevalent when Hanigan helped slow down the game for Freeland in the seventh.
"“I went out there once or twice and it was really only because I thought he was pitching six or seven pitch at-bats really attacking, it’s hot. I’m just trying to give him a breath. Regroup a little bit. Don’t want to get going to fast. At the same time I loved how loose he was. He was just really free. Not aiming the ball. He really knew what he had, it was just one of those days. Fun day,” he said."
After a deflating loss to the White Sox the night before, the Rockies needed this well-rounded game where the offense scored 10 runs off 12 hits to support Freeland’s masterpiece. While the Rockies finished with their best record at the All-Star break at 52-29, the team was 5-13 since June 20. This is the team’s first series win since June 15-18 against the Giants. Black commented on the importance of this game.
"“This leaves a very good taste in our mouth moving forward,” he said. “This was a good emotional win for us with Kyle pitching great. We swung the bats which I think was a good thing moving forward.”"
Pat Valaika swung the bat particularly well recording a career-high five RBI. But more importantly Valaika’s performance broke the game open to give Freeland some breathing room to just pitch. Opposing starter Carlos Rodón was pitching well as the Rockies were only up 2-0 headed to the bottom of the sixth.
"“I think I looked up in the fifth or sixth and saw we had a no-hitter going but I didn’t want to think about it because I didn’t want to jinx it. I said I can’t look at it anymore. These last few weeks have been tough. It’s good to finish strong on a high note. Kyle pitched great. It’s going to be one of those games you never forget. He was un-hittable and I’m proud of him,” Valaika said."
This game is right up there with the walk-off cycle game for Nolan Arenado on Father’s Day fighting for the top spot for the most memorable games. Even though Freeland gave up a hit, he did feel unhittable. Even in tough stretches this Rockies club shows they have resilience and their young pitching staff is ready to rise to the occasion.
Charlie Blackmon headed to the Home Run Derby
Like Dexter Fowler saved Jimenez’s no-hit bid, Gerardo Parra did the same for Freeland. In the top of the eighth with no outs, Yolmer Sanchez hit a shallow line that seemed like a certain hit. Parra gave everything he had and made the diving catch. That’s the exact moment Charlie Blackmon thought the no-hiteter was possible. In the bottom of the seventh, Freeland didn’t think no-hitting a professional club was enough, and got a base hit. Before that hit, he fouled one off and Blackmon picked up his bat. But he didn’t want to say anything to his pitcher during his streak.
"“[I said] here we go. Nice job. Butt smack. That’s pretty much it. I don’t want to put anything in his mind that really stands out,” Blackmon said."
Blackmon recorded his 20th homer of the season to extend his hitting streak to eight games. This is the first time he has hit 20 home runs before the All-Star break. His 477-foot home run is the longest by a Rockie this year.
Blackmon said his only goal in the Derby is to hit one home run and then maybe flip a bunch of line drives to left. After the home run, only one thing is for certain.
"“I’m just glad Jon Gray doesn’t have the longest standing homer anymore,” Blackmon said."
There is positivity ringing from this clubhouse. This complete win is exactly what the Rockies needed to spring board into a sustained run for the second half.