DENVER — Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland established himself Sunday as king of the hill at Coors Field — his hometown ballpark.
Freeland held the White Sox hitless until Melky Cabrera’s single with one out in the ninth inning while lifting the Rockies to a much-needed 10-0 victory over the White Sox as the Rockies won the final series before the All-Star break.
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Freeland, 24, who grew up in Denver, went to Thomas Jefferson High School and was the team’s top pick in the 2014 MLB Draft out of the University of Evansville. He struck out nine and dictated nine groundouts. Cabrera’s hit, a liner over the glove of leaping third baseman Nolan Arenado, came on his Custom Saints Jersey 126th and final pitch. He doffed his cap as a crowd of 36,541 roared.
“Around the fifth or sixth inning was when I realized I was really settling into my groove,” Freeland said. “I’m throwing well, my team’s playing well, we’ve got a lead. Just go out there, pitch to contact, get quick outs and get back in.”
The 8 1/3 hitless innings, before Jordan Lyles finished up, was the longest no-hit bid for a Rockies pitcher at Coors. The only Rockies pitcher to take a no-hitter longer was Ubaldo Jimenez, who completed his at Atlanta on April 17, 2010. The only pitcher to take a no-hit bid longer at Coors was the Dodgers’ Hideo Nomo, who finished his no-no on Sept. 17, 1996.
“He pitched inside extremely well, both in off the plate and for strikes,” said Rockies manager Bud Black, who watched Freeland put an 0-3, 7.27 ERA slump in his previous three starts behind him. “His slider/cutter was much better than Personalized Saints Jersey it’s been the last four starts. The fastball away had great action.”
The Rockies got home runs from Charlie Blackmon and Pat Valaika, who finished with a career-high five RBIs. They go into the All-Star break in the second National League Wild Card position. But Sunday’s Freeland-powered win was just their fifth in the last 18 games.
Cabrera, who connected on a fastball inside for the White Sox’s lone hit, said in Spanish, with teammate Omar Navarez interpreting Personalized Jets Jersey, “I wasn’t thinking about anything else — just to get a good pitch to hit.”
The biggest defensive play of the near-no-no came to lead off the eighth, when left fielder Gerardo Parra — who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs offensively — rushed forward and dived to snag Yolmer Sanchez’s line drive. Freeland finished the frame with a filthy 92-mph cutter to freeze Willy Garcia for a strikeout.
White Sox starter Carlos Rodon gave up six runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. Blackmon’s homer was just the third Rodon had yielded to a left-handed hitter in his career. The others were to the Red Sox’s David Ortiz and the Mariners’ Robinson Cano.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Seventh heaven: Freeland worked around his first jam in the seventh Custom Saints Jersey after sitting through the Rockies’ 26-minute, 5-run sixth inning. The rookie walked Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier to open the seventh inning. All-Star Avisail Garcia then grounded into a double play and Tim Anderson, Saturday night’s hero, flied out to end the inning. Ground balls are Freeland’s forte, as he entered Sunday with a 56.6 ground-ball percentage, good for fifth in the Majors.
“We weren’t really able to do anything, string anything together,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “We had a couple of guys on through a walk or a hit by pitch. We had a few line drives, but other than that, really not a whole lot.”
Not getting caught in the squeeze: Freeland’s most stress Joe Carter Jersey came in the sixth. Thinking he had a strikeout on a 2-2 slider to inning leadoff man Narvaez, Freeland visibly reacted when plate ump Greg Gibson’s call didn’t go his way. Narvaez took a walk on the next pitch, moved to second on Rodon’s sacrifice bunt, and then to third on Adam Engel’s grounder. But Freeland escaped by forcing a Cabrera fly to center.
“I thought I had it, I think [catcher Ryan Hanigan] thought we had it, but you’re going to get those calls,” Freeland said. “You’re going to get balls you think are out of the zone, and it goes the other way sometimes. Take that, throw it away and move on.”
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Freeland was born May 14, 1993, in a Denver hospital — 29 days after the inaugural game in Rockies history.
CHUCK GOES YARD
Rodon appeared to have settled in after allowing two runs in the second inning, but he got a rude awakening in the sixth as Blackmon, who will participate in Monday’s T-Mobile Home Run Derby (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), launched a fastball a Statcast-projected 477 feet into right-center field to make it 3-0 Rockies. It was Blackmon’s longest home run since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015, and the longest by a Rockies player this season. It was the third-longest by any Rockies player since the introduction of Statcast™, and was tied for the third-longest by a left-handed hitter off a left-handed pitcher since 2015.
“I went down and in, it was 1-0, and that’s his spot right there,” Rodon said. “He hit the ball 470 feet. He just got it. He’s a good hitter.”
“I threw a no-hitter against George Washington High School. We 10-runned them, so it was a five-inning no-hitter.” — Freeland, recalling his only previous no-hitter, while in high school
White Sox: The White Sox will send Garcia to his first career All-Star appearance before opening the second half of their season Friday against James Paxton and the Seattle Mariners at Guaranteed Rate Field. First pitch of the three-game series is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CT.
Rockies: Four Rockies will travel to Miami for Tuesday’s All-Star Game presented by Mastercard — Arenado, Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu and Greg Holland. The Rockies open the second half in New York vs. the Mets on Friday at 5:10 p.m. MT. Jon Gray (2-0, 3.75 ERA) will make his third start since coming off the disabled list with a foot injury.
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