By Mary Cunningham

Nothing is easy for these Phillies, and for Cole Hamels.

catchNeeding one more out for a no-hitter Saturday against the Chicago Cubs with the Phillies leading 5-0, Hamels watched Kris Bryant crush his 129th pitch of the game to deep center field. Odubel Herrera, who had already made a spectacular catch earlier in the game, overran the ball forcing him to lunge forward at the last second in a desperate attempt to snag the fly ball.

In front of 41,683 fans at Wrigley Field, all of whom were on their feet for the 3-2 pitch to Bryant with two outs in the ninth, Hamels threw the first complete no-hitter of his 10-year career. (He was part of a combined no-hitter Sept. 1 last year against the Braves in Atlanta.)

“Nothing will top winning a World Series, but I think this is probably on that top list,” Hamels said. “It’s right under it.”

Hamels (6-7) struck out 13 hitters and walked two. His previous longest bid for a no-hitter came on Sept. 16, 2006, against the Houston Astros.

It marked the first time the Cubs were no-hit since Dodgers’ Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax threw a perfect game Sept. 9, 1965. It had been the longest streak in the majors without getting no-hit – a stretch of 7,920 games. The last no-hitter to occur at Wrigley Field was by Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas in 1972.

“Before the game, we went over what we wanted to try to accomplish, and then we were able to go out there and just accomplish it,” Hamels said. “Executing pitch after pitch made it kind of easy. When you’re able to do that, you’re not getting behind in the count; you don’t feel that sort of pressure build up. But it’s something that it’s definitely one of the more special moments that I’ve had.”

It seems there is always at least one standout defensive play en route to a no-hitter, and it was Herrera who provided the highlight reel plays. In the eighth, Herrera sprinted and made a diving catch along the wall in left center field on David Ross’ hit for the second out of the inning. Hamels made a great play of his own to end the eighth, snagging pinch hitter Kyle Schwarber’s hard come-backer up the middle and making an easy out at first.

However, it’s Herrera’s last catch, which secured Hamels’ no-hitter that he will remember most from the game. Before this season, Herrera had played just 13 games in the outfield, all in the minor leagues, including only two games in center field.

“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 a translator of the game-ending play. “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.

“It was just a reaction,” he added. “As soon as I saw the ball wasn’t going to carry anymore, I just dived forward.”

With the way the Phillies’ season has gone, a dropped fly ball to ruin a no-hitter would been another footnote to what has been a trying season.

“He almost gave me a heart attack,” outfield coach Juan Samuel said of Herrera.

It was fitting Hamels delivered one of the best performances of his career in what might have been his final start in a Phillies uniform with the trade deadline Friday. Hamels said he didn’t give it any thought Saturday could be his last start with the organization that drafted him in the first round of the 2002 draft.

Interim Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he allowed himself to get caught up in the moment while in the dugout, knowing Hamels’ future with the organization is uncertain. Mackanin planned to let Hamels throw 130-135 pitches before he would have pulled him from the game, even if he still had his no-hitter.

“Those are the kind of things you’re hoping for,” Mackanin said. “You want that drama. Even the players, even us on the bench, there’s nothing like a good drama in baseball.”

Ryan Howard provided early offense for Hamels by hitting a three-run homer, his 17th of the season, off Cubs starter Jake Arrieta in the third inning. The Phillies added two more runs in the eighth, aided by an Anthony Rizzo throwing error that allowed Cody Asche and Galvis to score.

Ruiz caught the fourth no-hitter of his career, the most in National League history, including the playoffs, and is tied with Jason Varitek for the most overall.

“I was like, ‘Oh, we’re done,’ ” Ruiz thought as he watched Bryant’s fly ball. “Then I didn’t think so when I saw [Herrera] turn around and diving, I was like, ‘He got it. He got that ball.’ Then Cole’s reaction [mimics his mouth dropping open], and everybody was happy.”


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