After a blazing start to their season, things had gotten a little, well, rocky for the Colorado Rockies. But thanks to a near-historic outing by hometown rookie Kyle Freeland, who held the Chicago White Sox hitless for 8 ⅓ innings on Sunday, the Rockies finished the first half with the kind of flourish that has marked so much of their season so far.
Working methodically, especially in the middle innings, the lefty Freeland stifled the free-swinging White Sox, getting nine strikeouts and walking three. He threw a career-high 126 pitches, only the third time he has reached triple digits, and gave up only four batted balls out of the infield.
The last of those was Melky Cabrera's sharp single with one out in the ninth to end the no-hit bid. Freeland became the first Colorado pitcher to lose a no-hitter in the ninth. At 24, Freeland was born in 1993 -- the year the Rockies joined the National League.
The Rockies won the game in a rout (10-0) for only their fifth win in 18 games. But Colorado finishes the first half 52-39 and has a large lead for the second wild-card spot in the National League. It would have been just the second no-hitter in Rockies history and the first thrown by one of their pitchers at either Mile High Stadium or Coors Field.
The only Rockie to toss a no-no was Ubaldo Jimenez, who did it at Turner Field in Atlanta on April 17, 2010. Freeland's bid was the longest since then. The only no-hitter at Coors Field was thrown by Hideo Nomo of the Dodgers on Sept. 17, 1996.
Had he completed the bid, Freeland would have been just the fourth pitcher to hurl a no-hitter for his hometown team in his home city, and the first since the Dodgers' Bill Singer in 1970. Freeland is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver and the Rockies made him the eighth pick of the 2014 draft after Freeland played college ball at the University of Evansville. He was ranked as Colorado's sixth-best prospect before the season by ESPN's Keith Law.
Freeland posted a 3.42 ERA over his first 14 big league starts, but before Sunday he had put up a 7.47 ERA over his past three outings, the last of which spurred this terse session with Colorado manager Bud Black:
Freeland's no-hit bid was an extreme example, but much of Colorado's first-half success was predicated by the strength of their rookie-laden starting rotation. Of MLB's top five rookie pitchers by WAR, four of them are or have been members of the Colorado rotation: Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman. But Freeland has been the best of them and, after Sunday's game, looks poised to bounce back from a recent rough stretch.
All of the rookie starters have cooled over the past month, Senzatela so much so that he was sent to the bullpen when No. 1 starter Jon Gray came off the disabled list (and on Friday Senzatela was sent down to Triple-A Albuquerque). However, even if the Rockies acquire a veteran starter at the trade deadline, they will need at least some of these guys to right the ship. Freeland could hardly have offered a better form of reassurance than he did Sunday.