I got a text from my father that Cole had his no-no going with 9 strikeouts through six innings Saturday. Luckily, I was in a spot where I was able to turn on Comcast SportsNet for the start of the bottom of the 7th and watched Hamels annihilate the Cubs 3, 4, and 5 hitters with three straight strikeouts on 13 pitches.
He struck out cleanup hitter Jorge Soler for the third time on the day and Soler broke his bat over his knee (on his 2nd attempt – first one had to hurt) in frustration. Matt Stairs quipped from the booth “best contact he’s made all day” and I had a chuckle.
Hamels is the only legitimate major league player (bullpen excluded) on the Phillies in 2015 and has been the subject of constant trade rumors for essentially two years straight. He came into the game giving up 13 runs in his last two starts that only spanned 6.2 innings. Regardless of his past success, those two starts could not have had the buyer's in the market too keen on the southpaw.
Hamels may be able to put on a front and say the incessant trade talk does not affect his game but it’s hard to believe that he's been able to focus on his starts the same way he always has throughout his brilliant 10 year career in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, Hamels has been solid this season the prior two starts not withstanding.
So with the trade deadline bearing down on Ruben Amaro and the Phillies, Cole Hamels really needed to have a vintage performance to put any doubts potential suitors have about his game to rest. In perhaps the biggest start Hamels has had since late 2012 (the Phils were in the Wild Card chase a bit in September that year), he delivered what is almost certainly the best regular season performance of his career.
Hamels struck out 13 and walked two on his way to the first no-hitter of his career.* I did not catch the first 6 innings of the game, but watching innings 7 through 9 reminded me why I’m a fan of baseball again, and it had been a while.
I haven’t had that giddy knots in my stomach feeling watching the Phillies since Ryan Howard tore his Achilles what feels like a century ago (It was 4 years).
The 8th inning was tense, wow. After getting ahead of catcher David Ross with 1 out, Hamels left a ball up and Ross crushed one deep into the left center field gap. Odubel Herrera was on his horse coming over from right center making an arc on the warning track and circling under the deep fly ball. Odoobs fell to the ground as he made a running catch to preserve the no-hitter. He got up and slapped his glove in excitement and we all could exhale. The next batter, pinch-hitter Kyle Schwarber, sent a hot shot grounder back up the box that certainly had a chance to make it through the infield but Hamels stuck out his glove and snared it. He was heading to the 9th inning with a zero still hanging in the hits column for the Cubs on the south side of Chicago.
The broadcast did not go to commercial after the Phillies' half of the 9th inning – not sure I’ve ever seen that before - and Tom McCarthy started waxing poetic. The coolest stat he got to reel off was that the Cubs had the longest non no-hit streak in the Majors at over 7000 games. The Cubs hadn’t been no-hit in 50 years and the last man to do it was Sandy Koufax. Whenever you’re doing something that was last done by Sandy Koufax you know you’re in the rarest of air there is.
The first two outs of the 9th were uneventful, a grounder to third base and Hamels 13th strike out of the game. The last out had to test some mettle of course. Hamels got ahead of dangerous rookie Kris Bryant but the third baseman was able to work the count full. On the 3-2 pitch he sent a deep drive to dead centerfield and Odoobs was making sure this ball would not get over his head. In fact, he over ran it and the ball was coming down at the base of the warning track. Odoobs had gone too far! But at the last second he was able to leap forward and make a shoestring catch to complete the no hitter for the second greatest left handed pitcher in the Phillies' century plus history.
|Odoobs made this game ending catch a bit harder than it needed to be.|
What a moment!
The Phils are abysmal and even their recent play (7 out of 8 wins since the All-Star Break) has not been enough to make you think they’ll win 63 games.
But if this was Cole Hamels last start as a Phillie it really is a fitting way for him to end his career here. Cole Hamels has been nothing short of fantastic when he’s donned the red pinstripes for our Philadelphia Phillies. He’s come up big in the biggest moments and put a smile on our faces every 5th day for a decade straight. Here’s to hoping this performance was his one last gift to Philadelphia. It helped us enjoy baseball again, if only for a quick afternoon, and should help bolster any package of prospects the Phillies are seeking in return for their ace’s services.
*Hamels pitched 6 innings in a combined no-hitter last Labor Day against the Dodgers.