When I was walking back to my car, I met up with site friend Matt Winkelman and his delightful partner Caite, and we had a couple of beers. On the way to the bar, I remarked that I'd seen Hamels live before, but I don't think I'd ever seen him pitch that dominantly. Matt turned to me and said:
"Well, I don't think anyone has."
Yes, friends, I was at the Cole Hamels no-hitter live and in person today, thanks to a lovely birthday gift from my wife that I don't think she could have possibly have guessed would be as cool as it was. Around the fourth inning, I had to pee, but I jokingly said to my buddy that I didn't want to jinx the no no. By the eighth inning, I was squirming frantically, completely sure both that I was a) going to 100 percent pee in public and b) totally going to jinx Hamels if I even thought about leaving my seat before the first hit. Two insane sliding catches that were part outfield defense ineptitude and part gutsy diving stops, I had forgotten all about it and was screaming myself hoarse.
There have been 290 no-hitters in MLB history since 1875, and since I'm going to save my sanity at this late hour, let's just say that schedule fluctuati
ons through the years give us ~100 games per year. That means 14,000 games since 1875 (which seems weirdly low, and probably is). That means every game you go to has about a 2% chance of being a no-hitter. This again seems wrong, and if you want to check my math, I'd love that,
(duhhh genius over here did the math all wrong. Commenter pretzalz helpfully adds "I think there have been close to 170,000 games. I only eyeballed that to within 10-20k, but hopefully close. The Phillies alone have played over 20,200 games" and Steven Lotter adds that "There have actually been over 200,000 games played in MLB history, which leads to about a .145% of a no-hitter happening in any one game." Thanks guys, but as remains true:)
I'm still kind of buzzing from beating those poorly calculated odds and seeing a no-hitter starring Cole Freaking Hamels.
And the game had more than just no hits, too! A home run and nearly a second dinger by Ryan Howard! A hilarious Cubs error! Maikel Franco looking like a legit major leaguer! Jorge Soler breaking a bat over his leg! Diving grabs! And above all, an insanely smooth and dominant performance by an ace that has been too-long maligned as a number 2 in these and many other parts.
Hamels pitched lights out, walking only the capriciously patient Dexter Fowler twice and striking out 13, but you had to see him at it to really know how good he was. No effort. No real strain. Clean, easy delivery the whole time. Sometimes his control looked off, like in the inning in which he walked Fowler for the second time; and then he'd buckle down and strike out the side. While some on twitter were advocating taking him out of the game, he spat clearly in the face of Blue Bird God and touched 94-96 on his fastball all night.
Folks, he's learning. Evolving. He's become a ruthless killing machine. Of, I mean...of bats. Not people. Presumably.
In all seriousness, I was happy to be able to see a pitching duel today, and perhaps Hamels' last start as a Phillie. Instead I got to see a guy who many people had left for dead after two lousy starts just make a legitimate major league lineup look terrible. Cubs fans were openly lamenting their team's chances as I left the stadium. I repeat, Cole Hamels was so good that he made an entire fanbase give up on their promising and exciting team. He melted their entire fanbase off!
I've never seen a no hitter before live, and I'm not entirely sure I've ever seen one start to finish. But they're incredibly emotional things, filled with shouting and screaming and nerves. And I wasn't even throwing a baseball. Through his career, Hamels has been saddled with being too pretty; being too fly ball prone; being too emotional on the mound; being not tough enough; and being a "high end number 2." I watch enough baseball to know that one amazing start will not change most peoples' wrong-headed and bad beliefs, and that's fine. I also know that this start did not get the Phillies any closer to a franchise altering trade.
But it made me an even bigger fan of Cole Hamels, and made part of me hope he just finishes the whole of his career in Philadelphia, come hell or high losses. And it also reminded me how damn good baseball could be when it means something. This season has been horrible in so many ways, but perhaps the worst thing about it is that it's robbed us of our ability to feel tension and transcendent relief at baseball. It's just playing out the string.
Not today, though. Today, if only in my own mind, Cole Hamels made the whole season worth it.
And happy birthday to the truest believer of all, Liz Roscher!