Hamels' 10 most memorable moments

December 27th, 2023

A version of this story originally ran in August 2023.

From putting together one of the most dominant pitching stretches in postseason history to throwing an unforgettable no-hitter in his Phillies finale, Cole Hamels has had no shortage of marquee moments throughout his career.

Though it wasn’t easy to narrow it down, here's a look at 10 of the best moments and performances from the four-time All-Star, who celebrates a birthday today and officially retired earlier this year.

1. 2008 postseason
Hamels was named the MVP of both the National League Championship Series and the World Series in 2008 -- and, even more amazing, his best start that postseason actually came in the NL Division Series. The southpaw started his incredible postseason run by tossing eight scoreless innings in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Brewers. He then started both the opener and clincher in the NLCS against the Dodgers, allowing just three runs over 14 innings. Hamels again started the opener and clincher in the World Series, limiting the Rays to four runs in 13 innings.

All told, Hamels went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his five starts that postseason. He pitched at least six innings in each of those five outings, and never allowed more than two runs. In doing so, Hamels joined John Smoltz (1996) and Curt Schilling (2001) as the only pitchers in MLB history to record five starts in one postseason of at least six innings and no more than two runs allowed.

2. Grand exit
When Hamels took the mound at Wrigley Field on July 25, 2015, it was no secret that it would likely be his final start in a Phillies uniform. One of the last remaining pieces from the core that had led the club to back-to-back pennants in ’08 and ‘09, Hamels was a valuable asset on a Phils club that was in the midst of rebuilding.

Making his 308th career appearance in a Philadelphia uniform (including postseason), Hamels miraculously threw a no-hitter against a stacked Cubs lineup. He racked up 13 strikeouts on a day when his only blemishes were two walks to Dexter Fowler.

Hamels was traded to the Rangers six days later.

3. 2010 NLDS clincher
Full disclosure: This wasn’t even the best start by a Phillies pitcher in this three-game series. Of course, that honor belongs to Roy Halladay, who tossed his historic no-hitter in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against the Reds -- but Hamels’ outing four nights later was a gem in its own right. After winning the first two games at home, Hamels took the mound at Great American Ball Park and dominated Cincinnati over nine shutout innings. He allowed just five hits while striking out nine and walking zero. The lefty put an exclamation point on the series when he struck out Scott Rolen to end the game and send the Phils to the NLCS.

4. Give a homer, get a homer
Entering the third inning of a July 21, 2012, game against the Giants, Hamels had never allowed a home run to an opposing pitcher and he had never hit a home run himself. By the end of that frame, he had done both.

In the top of the third, Hamels served up a solo shot to San Francisco starter Matt Cain. Stepping to the plate in the bottom half, Hamels jumped all over the first pitch he saw and sent it into the right-field seats at Citizens Bank Park for his first career home run. Asked if he was trying to even the score after serving up a homer to Cain, Hamels said: “"No, no. Every time I get up there, I'm just trying to hit the ball.”

The unlikely sequence marked the first time that starting pitchers homered off each other since May 18, 2002, when Atlanta's Kevin Millwood and Colorado's Denny Stark did so at Coors Field. It was also the first time a Phillies pitcher both hit a home run and allowed one to an opposing pitcher in the same game since Aug. 18, 1925 (Johnny Couch against Cincinnati's Dolf Luque).

"It was nice. You wait long enough and hopefully, eventually, you can have one," Hamels said. "The situation that it happened, I think that I'll enjoy that more than anything, with giving up the first home run I've ever given up to a pitcher, then to be able to get one.”

5. Immaculate inning
Hamels etched his name into the record book by turning in an immaculate inning in the third frame of his May 17, 2014, start against the Reds. That’s right -- nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts. Facing the Nos. 2-4 hitters in Cincinnati’s order, Hamels made quick work of Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier. Cozart took a called strike and fouled a pitch off before going down swinging. Phillips took a pair of called strikes before also swinging through strike three. Frazier went up hacking, swinging and missing at three straight pitches to end the inning just moments after it began.

6. Racking up the K’s
After putting together a strong finish to his rookie season in 2006, Hamels made an early statement to the rest of the league on April 21, 2007. Making his fourth start of the season, he not only racked up what proved to be a career-high 15 strikeouts, but he did so in a game in which he also induced a triple play. Hamels looked poised for a big strikeout total when he struck out the side in the first inning en route to racking up eight through the first four frames.

Hamels had none in the fifth, however, as all three outs came on one swing of the bat. After a walk to Josh Hamilton and a single by Edwin Encarnacion, Reds catcher David Ross stepped to the plate and hit a grounder to third baseman Abraham Nunez, who quickly stepped on the bag to start a 5-4-3 triple play. Though that slowed Hamels’ strikeout pace, he picked up another seven over the final four innings -- including three in the eighth -- to finish with 15 K’s while allowing just one run in a complete-game victory.

7. Combined no-hitter
Though it wasn’t quite as memorable as the no-hitter he would toss less than a year later in his final start with the Phillies, Hamels handled the bulk of a combined no-no on Sept. 1, 2014, against the Braves. Despite struggling with command early (four walks and a hit batter through three innings), Hamels battled his way through six hitless innings at Atlanta’s Turner Field before turning things over to the bullpen. Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon followed by each tossing a perfect inning to complete the combined no-hitter. Hamels finished the day with seven strikeouts, five walks and a hit batsman over his six frames.

8. Dazzling debut
Despite some shaky moments, Hamels put together a wildly impressive MLB debut on May 12, 2006, against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. He notched a pair of strikeouts in the first inning, including getting Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. to stare at a called strike three to end the frame. Hamels ended his day the same way, striking out Griffey to end the fifth inning. The 22-year-old rookie finished with seven strikeouts while allowing only one hit -- a Felipe Lopez double with two outs in the fifth -- over five innings.

9. 'Four Aces'
Hamels made his first All-Star appearance and finished sixth in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2007, then played a pivotal role in guiding the Phillies to a World Series title in ’08. Yet while the Phils won a second straight NL pennant in ’09, Hamels struggled to a 4.32 ERA and 10-11 record. He bounced back to put up a 3.06 ERA in ’10, then shined in ’11 as an integral part of one of the most dominant starting rotations of this century.

Hamels went 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP, finishing fifth in 2011 NL Cy Young Award voting -- but third on his own team. Halladay (19-6, 2.35 ERA) was the runner-up for the Cy Young Award (behind Clayton Kershaw), while Cliff Lee (17-8, 2.40) finished third. Roy Oswalt (9-10, 3.69) rounded out the “Four Aces,” but Vance Worley (11-3, 3.01) also burst onto the scene en route to finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting.

10. Welcome back
The Phillies faithful obviously showered Hamels with plenty of appreciation during his nine and a half seasons with the team, but Philadelphia fans have left no doubt about his place in their hearts since his departure. On Jan. 24, 2018, fans attending the Philadelphia 76ers-Chicago Bulls game at Wells Fargo Center gave Hamels -- then a member of the Texas Rangers -- a standing ovation when he was shown on the Jumbotron.

Hamels then received another ovation from the crowd at Citizens Bank Park when he returned on Aug. 31, 2018, as a member of the Cubs -- though he did not pitch during that three-game series. He finally took the mound in Philadelphia in an opposing uniform for the first time on Aug. 14, 2019. The Phillies legend was greeted with not one, not two, but three rousing ovations from the crowd. The first came when he initially took the mound in the bottom of the first. The next came when he stepped to the plate for the first time in the top of the third. Phils fans rose to their feet for a third and final ovation when Hamels took the walk from the mound to the third-base dugout after being removed by Cubs manager Joe Maddon.