After throwing the first no-hitter against the Cubs in 50 years Saturday at Wrigley Field, Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels finished his postgame interview and strolled across the field to the visiting clubhouse.
A few stragglers from the standing-room-only crowd of 41,683 were left in the ballpark, and one of them yelled down: "Cole, come to the Cubs."
The idea of Hamels possibly being traded to the Cubs was on everyone's mind when the 31-year-old veteran stepped onto the mound on this sweltering afternoon. The Phillies are unloading, and speculation has been rampant in the final days before Friday's trade deadline.
If this was indeed Hamels last start as a Phillie, it certainly was a memorable way to go out.
With the fans on their feet and Cubs' rookie slugger Kris Bryant at bat with two outs in the ninth, Hamels watched helplessly as Bryant cracked a long fly to deep center that appeared headed to the bleachers. But center-fielder Odubel Herrera drifted back, came in, lost his footing and made a diving catch on the warning track, kicking up a ton of dust and emerging with the ball to save the no-hitter.
"I think I've been here a few times when the wind was blowing out," Hamels said. "So I think knowing that every once in a while you'd like to get away with a pitch, that was definitely the one pitch I was glad I got away with.
"You have a great hitter up there in Kris Bryant, and to be able to keep that in the ballpark and for Herrera making that amazing play, the second time. … Outstanding for him to be able to go all out. … A surreal moment."
It was the first time the Cubs had been no-hit in 7,920 games, since Sandy Koufax threw a perfect game against them on Sept. 9, 1965, at Dodger Stadium.
The conditions actually were conducive for a no-hitter, with a struggling Cubs offense that has combined to hit only .223 in July, and a wind blowing in from the north, an oddity on a humid midsummer afternoon near the lake. Hamels struck out 13 and issued two walks — both to Dexter Fowler — while throwing 129 pitches.
The only other near-miss was David Ross' deep fly to left-center with one out in the eighth. Herrera made a running catch before tumbling on the warning track, a harbinger of his ninth-inning grab.
Hamels threw six no-hit innings against the Braves on Sept. 1 in a combined no-hitter, but Saturday he was coming off two poor outings while dealing with trade rumors. Mixing his four-seam fastball with an unhittable curve, Hamels made the Cubs' lineup look hopeless from the outset.
"Today was vintage Cole Hamels," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Other than that combined no-hitter last year … it's overdue because the stuff he has, you would expect him to do that more often, or at least flirt with a no-hitter."
Catcher Carlos Ruiz, who tied Jason Varitek's major-league record in catching his fourth no-hit game, said he knew something special was happening during the sixth inning. Ruiz tried to do everything exactly the same way after each inning to keep the mojo working, but took off his sunglasses before the ninth because the shadows were covering the infield.
"I'm superstitious, and I was like, 'Oh, man, I don't think it can happen,' " Ruiz said. "But then finally it happened, and I'm real happy."
At his postgame news conference, Hamels said he takes all the trade talk as a "compliment" and just tries to "live in the moment."
The fact the no-no was against the Cubs, a team interested in acquiring him, wasn't on his mind.
"No, there's a great history in this ballpark," he said. "It's a fun place. It's one of our top places to play. This is something that I grew up watching on WGN, the Cubs playing, as a kid. … It's a special moment."
Hamels wouldn't say whether he could envision himself in a Cubs uniform.
"Right now I'm wearing the Phillies red, and that's where I plan to play," he said. "That's all I can really do. It's out of my control."
Whether Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro can trade someone as popular as Hamels coming off a no-hitter remains to be seen. But Hamels' already high trade value definitely rose a notch.
"I'd be surprised if Ruben's phone isn't off the hook right now," Mackanin said.