Still a Phillie, Hamels shows value in no-no
Philadelphia ace makes history in final start before Trade Deadline
CHICAGO -- 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.
"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 MLB.com 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.'"