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Hey Wrigley fans, you missed a gem

By Dan McGrath

Wrigley Field patrons driving home from the Cubs game Saturday might have gotten their first inkling of Cole Hamels’ no–hitter on Mark Grote’s postgame radio show.

And those who congregated at Bernie’s or Murphy’s or other watering holes might have learned of it by seeing Odubel Herrera’s two huge catches on the TV wrap–up.

You would hope. Because a good many of the 41,683 fans in the ballpark seemed oblivious to Hamels’ feat as it took place.

Yes, he was that dominant, carving up a struggling Cubs lineup with a killer change-up, a knee–buckling curve and a fastball that touched 94 mph in the ninth inning. He faced two batters over the minimum, with first– and sixth–inning walks to Dexter Fowler accounting for the Cubs’ only baserunners.

Herrera dashed to the warning track in left–center field to glove David Ross’ deep drive as he was stumbling and falling with one out in the eighth inning. And he did fall down after a long run in pursuit of Kris Bryant’s blast to center in the ninth but still managed to catch the ball for the game’s final out, preserving Hamels’ first career gem.

Other than that, the 31–year–old left–hander was on cruise control. And the crowd, for the most part, was as silent as the Cubs’ bats. For a no–hitter, the first at Wrigley since Milt Pappas came within one strike of a perfect game against the San Diego Padres in September 1972.

Full houses are back to being the norm at Wrigley, but the return of capacity crowds also means the return of socializers and baseball dilettantes who are there for the party and not the game. Thousands headed for the exits and the bars across the street after Anthony Rizzo’s throwing error set up two runs and stretched the Phillies’ lead to 5–0 in the eighth inning.

The Cubs weren’t going to score five or more off Hamels, but they still had two innings in which to deny him the first no–hitter at Wrigley in 43 years. And if he got it? History, and an even better story.

The Phillies have had a dispiriting season, and their jubilant postgame celebration indicated how much Hamels’ effort meant to them — —he’s an amiable, popular clubhouse presence. And with his last-place squad likely headed for a scorched–earth rebuild, he’s an attractive target for any contending team seeking pitching for the stretch drive.

Hamels might have made his last start in a Phillies uniform. What a performance to close the show.