DENVER — There will be another one.
Yes, without a doubt, in the eyes of the 36,541 lucky folks who roared and grew goosebumps as Kyle Freeland tested baseball history on Sunday, they wanted this one. They wanted it for the Rockies, who have never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter at Coors Field. They wanted it for themselves, an Instagram moment inside the Instagram ballpark. They wanted it for the 24-year-old Freeland himself, one of Colorado’s own. “Born and raised,” as he put it afterward.
They didn’t get it Sunday, when Freeland, with one out in the ninth inning, saw his no-hit bid get whacked into left field, a single off the powerful bat of White Sox slugger Melky Cabrera. The Rox won, 10-0. But there will be another one. These guys, and Freeland, aren’t going away anytime soon.
That’s what can be gleaned from the Rockies as a whole — 52-39 at the All-Star break and raising expectations with each win. The best part of the first half has been how the Rockies are unafraid to raise expectations of each other.
There were no bruised egos when manager Buddy Black, on a trip to the mound in Freeland's previous start, told the infielders to stay back so he could read him the Riot Act, or on Sunday, when catcher Ryan Hanigan hustled to the mound and gave Freeland an earful — as he was no-hitting the White Sox.
“I wanted him to do what I wanted him to do,” Hanigan said firmly.
And there will be another one for Freeland. The lefty struck out nine, walked three and worked the longest no-hit bid by a Rockies pitcher in 21-plus seasons at Coors Field. He threw 126 pitches — the most he’s thrown at any level, from Denver's Thomas Jefferson High to Evansville (Ind.) University to the minors to 17 starts with the Rockies, where his previous high was 110 pitches — and it wasn’t until the ninth inning that the White Sox could hit the rookie. It was a fastball inside, on a 2-2 count, two outs shy of history.
“Tip of the cap to him. I made my pitch and he put a good-enough swing on it to get a hit,” Freeland said.
Freeland tossed a no-hitter at T.J., a five-inning job against George Washington High. The score then? 10-0. He came close twice as a college star at Evansville, once in a game at Creighton and once in a game at Missouri State, his family said.
With all the stars that seemed to align, it felt like this would be the one at Coors. Gerardo Parra sprinted in to make a diving catch and save the no-hit bid in the seventh. It's a rule that every no-hitter must include that play. “He knew what was on the line,” Freeland said. Charlie Blackmon blasted one to the moon, a 477-foot bomb, the longest home run this season by the Rockies. “I’m just glad a pitcher, Jon Gray, doesn’t have the longest homer for the year anymore,” Blackmon joked.
And the hometown angle can’t be ignored. Never underestimate a Colorado guy.
There will be another one, I’m sure of it, because of how his family reacted to Kyle’s unforgettable day. Don and Susan Freeland weren’t surprised, not one bit. They were kinda, sorta bummed out, because they saw, too, how Kyle slumped his shoulders after the only hit. Don, his dad, changed up his game-day routine after Kyle struggled in his previous start. Instead of sitting in the same spot, he moved back a row. After the second inning, Don walked the concourse, around and around, stopping only to purchase a Sprite to combat the 91-degree heat. Susan, his mom, began to consider the possibility of a no-hitter in the seventh. She never budged from her seat.
And the fanatical, proud crowd that hung on every pitch and used its voice to carry Freeland off the field after the seventh, eighth and ninth innings?
“Oh my gosh,” his girlfriend Ashley said.
There will be another one, because this one hardly moved the needle in the clubhouse. The Rockies now expect this — well, not this, because this was pretty much yanked from a storybook — and high baseball expectations are not the norm around these hills. They haven’t been, at least.
“If he would have thrown a no-hitter it would have dominated my cycle,” All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado said.
“I usually don’t get real excited until the eighth inning,” said Blackmon, the All-Star center fielder, as he packed up a fleet of American-flag bats he’ll swing in Monday’s Home Run Derby. “When you think about it, it’s almost impossible to go that long without giving up a hit.”
How ferocious was Freeland? The White Sox couldn’t manage to put a ball in the outfield until the fifth inning and didn’t land their third baserunner until the seventh. Fastball location, he said, was his principle weapon.
“His stuff never faded, no matter how many pitches he threw,” said Hanigan, the catcher.
The Dodgers’ Hideo Nomo still has the only no-hitter inside Coors Field.
When Freeland escaped a jam with two runners on — both walked — Freeland stepped over the chalk line and erupted with a roar. Rockies owner Dick Monfort jumped up from his seat behind the Rox dugout and banged together his hands above his head. The home crowd fell over itself to encourage the hometown guy home.
“A black-out moment,” Freeland said. His father took another lap around the concourse, trying and failing to shed his nerves.
“This kid’s got a fire within him,” Black said. “We love that about him.”
It won’t be the last time. There will be another one.