The only thing that could have stopped Cole Hamels on Saturday would have been a mid-game trade to the Cubs.
Hamels was near-perfect on a humid Chicago afternoon, hurling his first career no-hitter as the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Cubs, 5-0, in front of 41, 683 at Wrigley Field. It marks the first time the Cubs have been no-hit in 7,930 games, the last coming on Sandy Koufax's perfect game nearly 50 years ago on Sept. 9, 1965.
"He looked like he was extremely focused," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. ... "I just think he made his mind up that he's going to be who he is and he's going to do what he does best and he looked like he was on a mission. I'm thankful for it. It was a lot of fun for everybody."
Hamels, a rumored trade target of the Cubs, tossed nine innings of no-hit ball to go along with 13 strikeouts and two walks in the Phillies' victory.
"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, especially against the type of team that I was facing. They're the young future of the Cubs and they're the young superstars.
"To able to keep those guys off balance because they could put some serious damage on any sort of pitcher no matter what type of accolades you have. Then getting the plays I was able to get. I was able to keep the guys off balance enough. Guys were making huge plays behind me."
The only two times the Cubs reached base came via a Dexter Fowler first inning walk and a Fowler sixth inning free pass that broke a string of 15 consecutive batters retired by Hamels.
"He had everything going on," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "His velocity was up. His change is always outstanding. His curveball was there. We hit a couple balls well towards the end. They didn't fall, but under the circumstances like this give the guy the credit."
The Cubs came close to notching their only hit off of Hamels by consecutive batters in the eighth inning. David Ross flew out deep to left field, followed by a pinch-hitting Kyle Schwarber who sent a liner back up the middle that Hamels was able to snag.
And a no-hitter or perfect game wouldn't be complete without some late-inning drama.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the only obstacle standing between Hamels and MLB history was Kris Bryant. The Cubs rookie phenom launched a fly ball to the warning track in center where Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera raced back before having to come back in to make a sliding catch in front of the wall.
"Thank goodness the win was blowing in," Hamels said. "I think I've been here a few times when the wind was blowing out. Knowing every once in awhile you'd like to get away with a pitch, that was definitely that one pitch that I'm glad I got away with. You've got a great hitter up there in Kris Bryant.
"Being able to keep that in the ballpark and then Herrera making an amazing play the second time. Outstanding for him to be able to do that and go all out. I'm glad he didn't get hurt. It's just real nice to see that happen and everything. It was a surreal moment."
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The Phillies got in front early when Ryan Howard clobbered a Jake Arrieta two-out pitch to center for a three-run homer in the third inning. Philadelphia tacked on two more runs in the eighth when Freddy Galvis' doubled and came along to score along with Cody Asche on an ill-advised throwing error by first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
The last no-hitter in Phillies franchise history came on Sept. 1, 2014 when Hamels, Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon combined for one in a 7-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.