Just 18 starts into his career, Colorado Rockies rookie pitcher Kyle Freeland nearly entered the record books. The 24-year-old took a no-hitter into the ninth inning during Sunday’s 10-0 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Freeland’s stuff looked pretty special almost immediately. The left-hander started with a quick one-strikeout inning in the first before ramping things up. In the second, he struck out two more hitters. Then, in the third, he struck out the side.
Heading into the fourth, Freeland was carrying a perfect game. With two outs, he walked Jose Abreu, ending that bid.
That didn’t slow him down, though. Freeland cruised through the next couple innings. His only mistake was a sixth-inning leadoff walk to Omar Narvaez. He would pitch around that, heading into the seventh with the no-hitter intact.
Things got a bit dicey during the seventh inning. Freeland walked the first two batters he faced after some close calls by home plate ump Greg Gibson. Freeland induced a double-play, and then got out of trouble after Tim Anderson popped out to end the inning.
While Freeland was able to get out of the jam, the inning drove up his pitch count. Freeland completed the seventh inning with 99 pitches.
Prior to Sunday’s start, Freeland’s career-high was 110 pitches, so there was some question to how long he would be allowed to remain in the game.
Freeland was able to get through the eighth inning, but ran his pitch count up to a season-high 116. It didn’t look like that would be an issue. Bud Black stuck with his rookie starter, allowing Freeland to come out for the ninth in search of history.
Freeland kicked off the inning with a strikeout against Adam Engel. Then, Melky Cabrera stepped to the plate. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Cabrera hit a line drive to shallow left to break up the no-hitter.
With Freeland at 126 pitches, he was removed from the game. The fans game him a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout. Freeland finished the contest with one hit allowed over 8 1/3 innings. He struck out a career-high nine batters and walked three.
With the performance, Freeland came up just two outs shy of tossing the 297th no-hitter in Major League Baseball history. Had he done it, he would have been only the second Rockies player to accomplish the feat. Ubaldo Jimenez tossed a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves in 2010. Jimenez’s no-hitter remains the only one in franchise history. Hideo Nomo remains the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Coors Field, on Sept. 17, 1996.
Following the start, Freeland heads into the All-Star break with a 3.77 ERA over 107 1/3 innings. He’s been one of four rookie pitchers who have pushed the Rockies into contention this season.
Freeland came into Sunday’s start with 1.0 fWAR, which ranked fifth among all NL rookie pitchers. Teammates German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman are first and second in the stat. Another rotation mate, Anthony Senzatela, is sixth on that list.
While a number of Rockies rookie pitchers have fueled the team’s success this season, none have been more impressive than Freeland on Sunday. [/restrict]