MONTREAL -- When Tommy Greene took the mound for the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday afternoon, there was no way in the world he could throw a no-hitter.
Yet, somehow, from a wonderful list of reasons he couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't, rose baseball's most improbable thrill.
The 24-year-old righthander had only six career victories before yesterday. He had not yet spent a full season in the major leagues. He was making his second start of the season, only the 15th of his career. And his own club described his start an "emergency" because the scheduled starting pitcher, Danny Cox, was injured.
Yet Tommy Greene made this rare afternoon game breeze along like a Nolan Ryan matinee. Throwing 92-mph fastballs, he struck out 10 Montreal Expos and walked seven en route to a 2-0 victory, and never seemed troubled by the pressure. It was the eighth no-hitter in Phillies history, their first road no-hitter since 1971, and the 225th since the major leagues began recording such efforts.
No one was forced to make any outstanding defensive plays to preserve the no-hitter. Greene's most serious close call may have come on the last pitch.
The Expos' Tim Wallach smashed a one-hopper back to the mound. Greene -- a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder nicknamed "Jethro" because "I'm a big country guy from North Carolina" -- reached up and stabbed the smash near his eyes. Then, he cast both arms toward the roof of Olympic Stadium, Rocky-like, in a moment of triumph.
But he still had not thrown Wallach out.
"I was going to run to first myself, but then I thought better of it," said Greene, his eyes red from the beer celebration in the clubhouse, his hair dripping, his maroon jacket soaking wet.
Everyone in the locker room took turns hugging and squeezing and high-fiving the 24-year-old emergency pitcher.
With a tiny crowd of 8,833 fans watching, Greene threw 130 pitches -- 76 strikes and 54 balls.
Despite his inactivity, somehow in the eighth and the ninth, he was throwing as hard as he was in the early innings.
"Adrenalin," said Greene, after making just his 15th major-league start. "Pure adrenalin."