Cole Hamels pitched a no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies Monday – sort of.
Call it a modern no-hitter. These days complete games are almost as rare as no-hitters, so the no-hitter goes into the books with Hamels as the main contributor, but accomplishing it with a little help from his friends, as Joe Cocker sang it.
Actually, quite a few friends participated. It took three more pitchers for the Phillies to complete the no-hitter in a game they won 7-0 over the Atlanta Braves.
The southpaw who raised his season’s record to 8-6, pitched six innings and they weren’t really masterful given that he walked five Braves hitters and hit a batter. He threw just 108 pitches and didn’t even complain when Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg yanked him.
Back in the days when starting pitchers were expected to go all of the way and took pride in throwing nine innings, this sort of thing would never have happened. A manager pulling a pitcher two-thirds into a no-hitter would have been prima facie evidence of him committing a felony. The fan and sportswriter outcry would have been deafening.
No more. It is more fluke than accomplishment that the Phillies registered a no-hitter given the cooperative nature of the result. Hamels was followed on the mound by Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon, who each pitched one inning without allowing an Atlanta hit. The group dynamic also diminishes some of the thrill of the moment, too.
Sharing the praise too
Interestingly, Hamels attempted to direct praise to the others by saying that it is so tough for them to come in cold from the bullpen and toss three straight hitless innings. Apparently, he has not been paying attention to his sport. That happens every day in the majors because middle relievers have never been used more often and have never been more effective.
Bullpen guys routinely mow down opposing batters with this type of elan. It is less common for a starter to go six innings holding a team hitless and even less common for a pitcher throwing a no-hitter to watch the last three innings from the dugout. It does happen, however.
Major League history
This is the 11th time in Major League history that a combined no-hitter goes into the books. Since big-league baseball traces its origins to 1876 that means something of this nature occurs less than once a decade. The last time the sport witnessed a multiple-pitcher no-hitter was 2012. Kevin Millwood got the start for the Seattle Mariners and it took four additional Mariners to complete an even more bizarre no-hitter.
The Phillies’ no-hitter was the fourth of the 2014 season, but the only one in which partners were needed to go the distance. Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett, both of the Los Angeles Dodgers, threw no-hitters this year, as did the San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum.
Perhaps as proof that a no-hitter is more indicative of one-day dominance than season-long dominance, Beckett has been out most of the rest of the season with an injury and Lincecum was recently demoted from the starting rotation for ineffectiveness. Of course Kershaw is pretty much the best pitcher in baseball and seems capable of pitching a no-hitter every time out.
As for Hamels, he began the season with a biceps injury and has not had one of his best seasons in a 107-80 career. Maybe his six no-hit innings Monday merely means he is back to being the old Cole Hamels.