Sunday, July 26, 2015

Howard Hits And Hamels No Hits Cubs As Phillies Revisit 2008

GAME RECAP: Phillies Blank Cubs 5-0

If this was Cole Hamels' last start with the Phillies, it was a beauty. A prime target for teams looking for starting pitching prior to Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the left-hander threw a no-hitter in the Phillies' 5-0 victory over the Cubs on Saturday at Wrigley Field. "Nothing will top winning a World Series, but this is right under it," said Hamels. Ryan Howard belted a three-run homer off Jake Arrieta in the third to back Hamels, who struck out 13 for the 29th double-digit strikeout game of his career. How frustrated were the Cubs? When Jorge Soler struck out in the seventh, his third K of the day, he broke his bat over his knee. After all, Hamels had more hits himself -- he doubled in the eighth -- than Chicago did in the game. "It's not what I envisioned," Hamels said, asked about this possibly being his final start for the Phillies. "It's not what I thought. It's not in my thought process. I think all I've been thinking about the past couple days was just to kind of correct my pitching, just being able to be out there and enjoy the moment. "Just a surreal moment." It was the third no-hitter in the Major Leagues this season (Chris Heston and Max Scherzer) and first time the Cubs have been no-hit since the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax did so on Sept. 9, 1965, throwing a perfect game in a 1-0 win. That was 7,920 games ago. The last no-hitter at Wrigley was Sept. 2, 1972 by the Cubs' Milt Pappas. The game ended with Kris Bryant flying out to center fielder Odubel Herrera, who dove at the warning track to make the grab. It was Herrera's second hit-saving catch of the game as he robbed David Ross of a potential double in the eighth. Once the Phillies realized Herrera had caught Bryant's ball, they mobbed Hamels in the infield to celebrate. "Give the credit to [Hamels] -- don't denigrate our guys," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Credit Cole Hamels today. He pitched that well. He had everything going on. His velocity was up, his changeup is always outstanding, his curveball was there. We hit a couple balls well toward the end. They didn't fall. Under the circumstances like this, give their guy the credit."

  • Hamels posted a 19.89 ERA in his last two starts, and some wondered if that could affect his value before Friday's Deadline. But Hamels answered any doubts or concerns with an absolutely dominant performance. The only question for Hamels is: What's next? "Nothing will top winning a World Series, but I think this is probably on that top list," Hamels said. "It's right under it. Being able to go out there and feel confident, executing pitches, being able to keep guys, especially the type of team I was facing."
  • Hamels has had some of the worst run support in baseball this season -- the Phillies had been held scoreless in 48 of his previous 53 1/3 innings on the mound -- but first baseman Howard hit a two-out, three-run home run to center field in the third inning to hand the Phils a 3-0 lead. The entire rally started with two outs as Herrera doubled and Maikel Franco walked, setting up Howard's 17th homer of the season.
  • The bottom of the eighth inning was delayed because Phillies center fielder Herrera forgot his sunglasses. But he made up for it. Herrera made a spectacular running catch in left-center field for the second out, spearing Ross' line drive on the warning track. Herrera tumbled to the ground as he caught the ball, kicking up a pile of dirt in the first of two memorable defensive plays. "I thought that the ball would either go over or hit the wall, and I wanted to be able to jump or climb or whatever I needed to do to catch it," Herrera said through translator Andres Blanco. "I didn't expect the wind to stop the ball the way it did. I didn't slide. I just dived to catch the ball."
  • Hamels was part of a combined no-hitter on Sept. 1, 2014, against the Braves, as the lefty and three relievers shut down Atlanta.
  • This was the first time the Cubs have been no-hit at Wrigley Field since Aug. 19, 1965, in the first game of a doubleheader when the Reds' Jim Maloney did so. The Cubs had gone 49 full seasons without being no-hit, the longest span in Major League history.
  • Carlos Ruiz caught his fourth no-hitter, which set a National League record and tied Boston's Jason Varitek for the most by a catcher in baseball history. Ruiz caught Roy Halladay's perfect game in 2010, Halladay's postseason no-hitter in '10 and the Phillies' combined no-hitter (Hamels, Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon) last September.
  • "He definitely increased his value, I would imagine. You're going to get that higher-tier prospect because of that performance today. He was really good. He is really good." -- Maddon, on Hamels.
  • "He almost gave me a heart attack." -- Phillies first-base coach and outfield instructor Juan Samuel, on Herrera's ninth-inning catch.

Rookie right-hander Aaron Nola hopes to build upon his big league debut last week against the Rays, when he allowed five hits, one run, one walk and struck out six in six innings in a 1-0 loss. Nola is ranked the No. 28 prospect in baseball, according to Sunday will be Jason Hammel's second start since he was sidelined with a sore left hamstring. In his last outing, he did not get a decision against the Reds, giving up five hits over five innings. He has a 2.20 ERA in eight starts at Wrigley Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.


Herrera Saves Historic Start – Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera turned and ran hard toward the ivy-covered wall in center field in the ninth inning Saturday at Wrigley Field. Cole Hamels needed just one more out for the first solo no-hitter of his career and the 13th in Phillies history, when he threw a 3-2 curveball to Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. Bryant crushed the ball to the deepest part of the park. It looked like it might be a home run, but it died in the wind and Herrera dived at the last possible second to snatch the ball just inches from the ground. Hamels had done it. Herrera had saved the no-hitter, which the Phillies won, 5-0, with a scary-looking grab. "I saw the contact of the ball," Herrera said through his translator and teammate Andres Blanco. "I thought that the ball would either go over or hit the wall, and I wanted to be able to jump or climb or whatever I needed to do to catch it. I didn't expect the wind to stop the ball the way it did. I didn't slide. I just dived to catch the ball." Herrera said he did not panic when he realized he needed to dive to catch it. "It was just a reaction," he said. Of course, while Herrera did not panic, many others suffered as they watched it develop. "He almost gave me a heart attack," Phillies first base coach and outfield instructor Juan Samuel said. Herrera made another memorable catch with one out in the eighth inning when David Ross ripped a ball to left-center field. Herrera headed toward the wall, but curved back toward the ball to catch it. He tumbled to the turf, kicking up a cloud of dust. "The ball was in the gap and my first reaction was go deep on the angle of the ball," Herrera said. "I knew that a no-hitter was going on, so the first thing that crossed my mind was hold onto the ball." The last thing on his mind before the inning was remembering his sunglasses. The beginning of the eighth got delayed as a bat boy ran Herrera's sunglasses out to him. "I knew he forgot them," Blanco said. "I called time out and told the bat boy, make sure you get him his sunglasses." Herrera almost left the ballpark without talking about his two plays, but he seemed to appreciate the moment. "It feels awesome," he said. "I'm proud I caught them."

Final Game For Phillies? – If this is Cole Hamels' final moment in a Phillies uniform, he made it an unforgettable one. Hamels had 41,683 fans on their feet in the ninth inning Saturday evening at Wrigley Field, where he threw the 13th no-hitter in Phillies history in a 5-0 victory over the Cubs. He walked two batters and struck out 13 in a thoroughly dominant performance that comes just six days before Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. "Just a surreal moment," Hamels said. Hamels shared his thoughts about his no-hitter and his future with the Phillies in a tiny interview room underneath the stands inside the historic ballpark. Afterward, he returned to the visitors' clubhouse, crossing the playing field along the way, hearing cheers from Phillies fans still trying to exit the building. He had an almost peaceful look on his face as he arrived at his locker, a bottle of Dom Perignon sitting on the top shelf. He showered, changed and left for the team bus with teammate Cody Asche. Hamels met his wife, Heidi, and his family outside. He signed autographs for fans. “After throwing 129 pitches and a no-hitter, Cole signed autographs and thanked fans outside Wrigley Field. — Phillies (@Phillies) July 26, 2015. "I mean, it's not what I envisioned," Hamels said, asked if he thought about this being his final start with the Phillies. "It's not what I thought. It's not in my thought process. I think all I've been thinking about the past couple days was just to kind of correct my pitching, just being able to be out there and enjoy the moment." Hamels had a 19.89 ERA in his past two starts, which had many wondering if he would be traded before Friday's 4 p.m. ET Deadline. Yes, Hamels has a tremendous track record, but if he threw another clunker, it might have raised too many concerns for teams being asked to part with top prospects. Of course, the reality is even before Hamels stepped onto the mound, talks about him had heated up. The Rangers, Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs and Giants are making the hardest pushes for Hamels, according to multiple sources who have spoken to over the past couple days. The Phillies and Rangers recently reengaged talks, and a source said the Yankees' interest is more than just an organization performing its due diligence. The Cubs have been interested in Hamels since last summer. The Dodgers have been coveting Phillies' starting pitchers the past few years, starting with Cliff Lee in 2012. The Giants are looking for a top-of-the-line starter to make a push back to the postseason. "He definitely increased his value, I would imagine," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said with a smile. "You're going to get that higher-tier prospect because of that performance today. He was really good. He is really good." "I'd be surprised if Ruben's phone isn't [ringing] off the hook right now as we speak," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said about general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Hamels came out firing with his fastball, hitting 96 mph throughout the day. The Cubs squared up a few balls, most notably in the eighth and ninth innings. But Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera made a running catch in left-center field in the eighth, kicking up a cloud of dust as he tumbled onto the warning track, He also made a last-second dive on the warning track in center to make the final out of the game. "Thanks goodness the wind was blowing in," Hamels said about Kris Bryant's game-ending flyout. "That was definitely the one pitch I'm glad I got away with." Hamels, who threw 129 pitches, said he felt no extra pressure as he pitched deeper into the game. He had watched former teammate Roy Halladay throw a perfect game in 2010 and a postseason no-hitter that same year. Hamels participated in a combined no-hitter last September against the Braves. Oh, and Hamels also had some pretty memorable performances in the postseason, earning 2008 National League Championship Series and World Series Most Valuable Player Awards. "Nothing will top winning a World Series, but I think this is probably on that top list," he said. "It's right under it." But now the wait begins. Will Hamels be traded? If a team had been reticent to part with a particular prospect, maybe this performance will resonate as it dreams about October. "He was really good, and he is really good," said Maddon, who managed the Rays in that 2008 World Series. "I don't know about his last two outings. I only get to see him like that." "I'm wearing the Phillies' red, and that's where I've planned to play," Hamels said. "It's out of my control. I try to wake up every day and drive to Citizens Bank Park and play with the big 'P' on my chest. That's kind of what I've done since the moment I got drafted by them, and that's what I'm going to continue to do until somebody says, 'No.'"

Did You Know: No-No Edition – Phillies ace Cole Hamels dazzled against the Cubs on Saturday, tossing the third no-hitter in the Majors this season. From picking up the first no-hitter at Wrigley Field in nearly a half-century to having now tossed both a solo and combined no-hitter, Hamels made plenty of history in what could be one of his final starts in a Phillies uniform. Here's a look at 10 of the top facts and figures surrounding his historic 5-0 outing:
·         Saturday marked the first time the Cubs had been no-hit in nearly 50 years. Prior to Saturday, the last time the Cubs were held hitless was Sept. 9, 1965, when the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax tossed a perfect game for the last of his four career no-hitters.
·         As for the previous no-hitter thrown at Wrigley Field, that honor belongs to Milt Pappas on Sept. 7, 1972. Pitching for the Cubs at the time, Pappas lost a perfect game against the Padres with a two-out walk in the ninth before ultimately holding on for the no-hitter.
·         Hamels not only held the Cubs hitless, but he actually outhit them thanks to an eighth-inning double. In doing so, Hamels extended the recent trend of no-hit pitchers outhitting their opponents. Each of the last five pitchers to throw a no-hitter in a National League ballpark -- Hamels, Max Scherzer, Chris Heston, Jordan Zimmermann and Tim Lincecum -- has collected at least one hit of his own.
·         That's not the only trend involving NL pitchers and no-hitters, however, as the NL has now accounted for each of the last 12 no-hitters since Felix Hernandez's no-no for the Mariners on Aug. 15, 2012. That extends the Modern Era record for most consecutive no-hitters thrown by one league. The previous record was nine straight thrown by the AL from 1908-12.
·         Only six pitchers have notched more strikeouts than Hamels' 13 in a no-hitter. Nolan Ryan struck out at least 14 batters in four of his seven no-hitters, while the Astros' Don Wilson, the Braves' Warren Spahn, Koufax, the Giants' Matt Cain and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw each accomplished the feat once.
·         Those 13 strikeouts helped Hamels finish his historic outing with a Game Score of 98, tied for the highest in a nine-inning start in Phillies history. It matches Roy Halladay's 2010 perfect game and Steve Carlton's 14-strikeout one-hitter in 1972.
·         Saturday's no-hitter not only made history on the mound, but also behind the plate. It was the fourth no-hitter caught Carlos Ruiz, tying Jason Varitek for the most all-time. Prior to Saturday, Ruiz had also caught both Halladay's regular-season perfect game and postseason no-hitter in 2010, as well as a combined no-hitter started by Hamels last season.
·         Speaking of that combined no-no, Hamels became just the fifth pitcher all-time to be part of a combined no-hitter and throw one on his own. The others are Kevin Millwood, Kent Mercker, Mike Witt and Vida Blue, with Hamels joining Mercker as the only ones to complete the solo no-hitter after being part of a combined effort.
·         Hamels' no-hitter comes in the midst of seemingly endless trade rumors surrounding the Phillies ace. For what it's worth, only two pitchers since 1900 -- Cliff Chambers of the 1951 Pirates and Edwin Jackson of the 2010 D-backs -- have been traded during the same season in which they threw a no-hitter.
·         If he were to be traded before his next start, Hamels would become the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his final start before being traded since Bert Blyleven in 1977. Blyleven tossed a no-hitter in his final start of the '77 season with the Rangers before being traded to the Pirates that offseason.

What’s The Impact On Hamels’ Trade Value? – His full name is Colbert Michael Hamels, and, honestly, the Colbert Report, of late, had not been especially flattering. Track record has its limits when teams are talking trade. So while Hamels' four top-10 finishes in the National League Cy Young Award voting and 2008 World Series heroics are all wonderful accomplishments, the bottom line is that a team considering the surrender of prized prospects and the addition of Hamels' lofty price tag to the payroll probably wanted to see more from that long left arm than his last couple starts had wrought. So there were a lot of industry eyeballs on Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon. And by the time Odubel Herrera's circus catch had sealed the first no-hitter against the Cubs in 50 years, the number of eyeballs on the bearded, brilliant Hamels had multiplied considerably. This was history. And maybe soon, Hamels' Phillies career will be the same. If this was his Philly finale, what a way to go. If it wasn't, well, that's only because the trade equation for a guy making big money north of $30 million is a lot more complicated than we'd like it to be. But if there was any concern on the part of the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Giants, Rangers, Astros and, yes, the Cubs that Hamels was injured, inattentive or otherwise incapable of providing a big second-half boost, Hamels emphatically answered the doubters. "Nothing will top winning a World Series," he said afterward. "But this is right under it." In the two starts that preceded this gem, Hamels had been roughed up to the tune of 14 earned runs on 20 hits over just 6 1/3 combined innings. Woof. Around the game, eyebrows were elevated. Teams send extra scouts to July games for a reason. They've got access to every player's page if they want to know what they've done in the past. The present gains gravitas as the conversations in the leadup to Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline pick up steam. We know that the Phillies have at least been open to the idea of moving Hamels for a year now, and they got serious about dealing him over the winter. A deep free-agent pitching class negatively impacted his trade value in the offseason, and an even deeper class awaits next offseason. So while the Phillies have been adamant all along about getting both major salary relief (Hamels is due to make a minimum of $78 million between now and the end of 2018) and netting at least two near-Major League-ready players, the industry has not exactly complied. Neither, in fact, has Hamels himself. This has been a down year, especially by his lofty standards. He went into Saturday with an adjusted ERA+ of 96, putting him in danger of his first below-average season in that stat since 2009. Hamels' last two starts -- against the Giants and Marlins -- were the low point, and they came at a particularly bad point. Though this trade market isn't exactly ripe with sellers, there are/were a number of starting-pitching assets out there, including the just-moved Scott Kazmir, as well as other short-term rentals in Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake and the possible involvement of Jeff Samardzija, Yovani Gallardo and the big one -- David Price -- to name but a few. With teams reluctant to part with top talent and the number of clubs who can realistically take on Hamels' salary limited to a precious few, this is a very tough environment for the Phillies' new-look front office (Andy MacPhail will soon be taking over as team president, working alongside general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.) to get a franchise-shaping return. Saturday's nine innings, therefore, meant a great deal toward the deal discussions. This was reminiscent of the Hamels we all remember from the fall of '08 and a multitude of wonderful moments in the red pinstripes over the years. Hamels mixed his pitches well, routinely hit Carlos Ruiz's spots and was consistently around 95 mph on the radar gun with his fastball. You couldn't help but feel happy for Hamels, Ryan Howard and Ruiz that, as only the healthy last remnants of the Phillies' championship run remain (Chase Utley is on the disabled list), they were able to share this moment together. Hamels had put extra emphasis on his bullpen session between starts, because, frankly, he knows what's on the line right now. He has made it no secret he wants no part of a rebuild. He wants to be on a team built to win around him, and a no-no against the most exciting young lineup in the game was a welcomed reminder of what ol' Hollywood Hamels is capable of when he's on top of his game. The Cubs were watching, quite clearly. That Hamels himself out-hit them with his double in the eighth had to be humbling. And maybe it had Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer thinking a little harder about what a Hamels-Lester tandem would look like atop their rotation for the foreseeable future. Or maybe the Dodgers will now think a little harder about how to put together a package for Hamels that somehow doesn't involve Corey Seager or Julio Urias. Ditto the Yankees and Aaron Judge, Luis Severino or Greg Bird. Or the Red Sox and Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart. Again, a trade this massive is complicated. Too complicated to just blindly assume that Hamels' price tag suddenly skyrocketed. But when teams consider a deal of this magnitude, they want to feel they are acquiring an asset capable of moving the needle. For nine no-hit innings, Colbert Michael Hamels showed us that, and his timing -- for himself and for the team that still employs him -- was impeccable. 

Chooch Goes In The Record Books Too – The logic seemed simple enough to Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz on Saturday. For eight innings, he had worn his sunglasses, and for eight innings, Cole Hamels had not given up a hit. But as the sun hid behind the third-base stands and the shade fell over home plate at Wrigley Field, Ruiz took off his glasses before beginning the ninth. Then the thought finally crossed his mind that maybe he hadn't been superstitious enough, and maybe he had hurt Hamels' chances at the no-hit bid. He had been in this situation before, having caught three no-hitters already in his career. But Ruiz got off the hook, running out to hug Hamels after the lefty completed the no-no and the Phillies' 5-0 win over the Cubs. "I didn't think it can happen [once I removed them], but finally it did happen, and I'm real happy," Ruiz said. "Today was one of those games when I knew he was on." A nine-year veteran, Ruiz caught the fourth no-hitter of his career, tying a Major League record with former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. He previously caught Hamels' other no-hitter, a combined effort with relievers Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon in September 2014, when Hamels threw six no-hit innings. He caught two no-hitters by Roy Halladay, one against the Marlins in May 2010 and the other in the National League Division Series against Cincinnati that same year. "Personally, I'm real happy," Ruiz said of his feat. "It's special for me, and I'm excited right now -- so are my teammates and Cole. I'm trying to do my best behind home plate, and I give everything to Cole, because I'm the guy who caught the ball, and he did everything in different situations." A quiet and reserved player, Ruiz has caught several other excellent pitchers beyond Halladay. He's been around to catch Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, but his relationship with Hamels has been one of the longest. "We get into habits where we don't even need to call signs," Hamels said. "I think that's something special. I think anybody who's been able to have a combination like that kind of has that understanding. "When you're able to get that, it's special. That's tough to develop. He's a tremendous catcher and it just shows. If he wasn't, he wouldn't be catching that many no-hitters or perfect games." Ruiz knew Hamels had struggled as of late with his two-seam fastball, so he told him stick to his four-seam pitch. And he knew how effective his curveball had become, so when Hamels had 0-2 counts, Ruiz made sure he threw the pitch. Ruiz knew, around the sixth inning, that Hamels was in for a special day. He understood the pitcher and maintained the same approach inning after inning. Except for his sunglasses, of course. "I'm really happy for him," Ruiz said. "That was special."

Pursuing Papelbon – Jonathan Papelbon swore he made no sales pitch to Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer when he chatted with them Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Either way, Chicago is interested in him. Two baseball sources told on Saturday afternoon that the Cubs, Blue Jays and Nationals are the three teams most seriously pursuing Papelbon with less than a week remaining before Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause, but he has said repeatedly it will not be an issue if he is traded to a contender. He also has said he will not leave the Phillies to be a setup man. That will not be a problem for the Cubs, who are closing by committee, or the Blue Jays, who have Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna holding down the late innings. But the Nationals have Drew Storen, who was 1-0 with a 1.73 ERA and 29 saves in 31 opportunities entering Saturday. Papelbon is 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 17 saves in 17 opportunities. Perhaps the Nationals would make Storen the setup man to facilitate a trade. This is not to say a deal is imminent or one will happen, but with the Trade Deadline nearing, the talk is intensifying. That should please Papelbon, who has been asking for more than a year to be traded.

Last Chance? – The Domonic Brown assessment continued Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Brown was in the lineup in right field and at the No. 8 spot in Cole Hamels' no-hitter against the Cubs, a 5-0 Phillies victory. He went 1-for-4 with a single in the fourth inning. He entered Saturday batting .229 (24-for-105) with four doubles, eight RBIs and a .550 OPS in 33 games this season. His .618 OPS since Aug. 14, 2013, when he hit his final home run of the year, ranked 273rd out of 290 qualified hitters in baseball and 113th out of 119 outfielders. "His leash isn't as long as it used to be," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said earlier this month. "That's been communicated to him." It remains to be seen how much more of a chance Brown will get. Aaron Altherr is hitting a combined .294 (101-for-343) with 25 doubles, four triples, 11 home runs, 51 RBIs and an .851 OPS with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Some view Altherr as a fourth or fifth outfielder, but he might be worth a look the final two months of the season, especially if Brown continues at his current pace. "I don't want to say or do anything to upset his approach right now because he's getting his hits, but we're looking for some pop off the bat," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said about Brown, who was 11-for-36 with one double in his past 12 games entering Saturday. "Domonic is not a run scorer. He's a run producer. We want to see power. He hasn't shown that power all year, including Triple-A." Brown hit two home runs in 210 at-bats this season in Triple-A. He hit one in 17 at-bats with Class A Advanced Clearwater. That is 13 homers in 896 at-bats (one every 68.9 at-bats) since Aug. 14, 2013, including his 227 at-bats in the Minor Leagues. "I don't mean for him to hit 40 home runs, although it would be nice, but we would like to see him in that groove where he was a few years ago," Mackanin said. Mackanin said he has not followed Altherr too closely, which only makes sense. The front office has asked for the long look at Brown, and his time will be up only when it decides that is the case. "I've got enough outfielders to try to get playing time," Mackanin said. "I know Altherr has been having a lot of success, and that's good, because he's an above-average defender. But I don't concern myself with that right now, because there's so much in the near term and long term to iron out. That's the least of my concerns right now. "It's important for us to give [Brown] every chance that we can to prove either that he's going to be in our future or not."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 36-63. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance so far this season, this could end up being the worst team in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 50-53-0 on this day.

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