The Braves started their first inning Monday with consecutive walks, started their second inning with a hit batter, and started their third and sixth innings with walks.
But there were no runs in any of those innings. Oh, and there were no hits.
There was nary a hit all day for the reeling Braves offense, which surely reached its nadir on Labor Day.
Atlanta went hitless in a 7-0 loss to the Phillies at Turner Field, where Cole Hamels and three relievers pulled off the 11th combined no-hitter in major league history against a Braves lineup that’s mustered just one run in its past 27 innings.
The Braves got five walks and a hit batter in six innings against Hamels, and nothing whatsoever against relievers Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon in an all-around ugly loss to open a three-game series at Turner Field.
“We got (Hamels) out of there in the sixth with 100-plus,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. “But, you know, they no-hit us. We got no hits. We had some opportunities. We has some people on base early against Cole and we didn’t cash in.”
After the Braves went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in the first three innings, they didn’t advance another runner to second base. Phillies pitchers retired 20 of the last 21 batters including the last 12 in a row as the Braves were no-hit for just the 17th time in their 140-year franchise history and the first time by multiple pitchers.
“A loss is a loss, whether we get no-hit or get 20 hits,” Braves left fielder Justin Upton said. “Same thing.”
Hamels left after throwing 108 pitches in six innings and issuing five walks and a hit batter along with seven strikeouts in 108 pitches. The veteran left-hander wasn’t nearly as sharp as he’s been in some recent starts against the Braves, but he was plenty good when he had to be.
“I think we let him off the hook a little bit early,” said Braves third baseman Chris Johnson, who flied out twice with two runners in scoring position to end the first and third innings. “We had a chance and just couldn’t capitalize on it. And once he got past that third inning he started throwing the ball where he wanted to.”
Right fielder Marlon Byrd charged in and made a diving catch on Johnson’s third-inning liner, the best play of the day, the one that ultimately preserved the no-hitter — the first combined no-hitter in 20,105 games in Phillies franchise history.
Hamels (8-6) walked the first two batters of the first inning, Jason Heyward and Emilio Bonifacio, but Freddie Freeman and Upton each struck out, Upton whiffing after a double-steal had put both runners into scoring position.
Heyward drew another leadoff walk in the third, and stole second base before Freeman walked with one out. Upton grounded out on a nubber to Hamels before Byrd robbed Johnson.
The Braves’ .196 average with runners in scoring position and two outs is fourth-worst in the majors.
“He walked a few guys and gave us an opportunity, especially early on when Jason and Boni stole the bags,” Upton said. “With less than two outs we were getting runners in scoring position. I feel like we should execute in those situations, but we didn’t, and it kind of steamrolled from there.”
For the Phillies, it was the 12th no-hitter in franchise history and the first multi-pitcher no-no. The Braves have thrown one combined no-hitter — in 1991 when Kent Mercker combined with Mark Wohlers and Alejandro Pena to no-hit the Padres.
There have been three no-hitters thrown against the Braves in the past 35 years, with Arizona’s Randy Johnson (2004) and Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez (2010) tossing the other two, also at Turner Field. The Braves haven’t thrown a no-hitter of their own at Turner Field.
Heyward had a career-high three stolen bases in just the first three innings, but if Hamels didn’t seem too stressed over that development it was probably because he was confident he could thwart the Braves when he had to. Which he did.
Hamels was pinch-hit for with two out and two on in the seventh. The move paid off for the Phillies when Braves starter Julio Teheran walked pinch-hitter Grady Sizemore to load the bases, and Ben Revere cleared them with a triple.
Teheran (13-10) was charged with five hits and five runs (two earned) in 6 2/3 innings, with four walks (two intentional) and three strikeouts.
Revere’s hit over right fielder Heyward’s head chased Teheran from the game, with all three runs unearned after an error by Andrelton Simmons. The Gold Glove shortstop botched a routine grounder that would’ve been the second out of the inning with none on base.
Teheran had been 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA and .177 opponents’ average in his past three starts before Monday.
Hamels improved to 5-1 with a 1.74 ERA in in his past nine starts, and continued his recent dominance against the Braves. He’s 4-0 with 0.97 ERA in five starts against Atlanta in the past 13 months, with 40 strikeouts and just 17 hits allowed in 37 innings.
One out after Simmons’ error, Teheran intentionally walked Cody Asche with first base open, after Domonic Brown stole second base. He walked Sizemore to load the bases for Revere, whose triple gave him a career-best four RBIs for the day.
Revere had a sacrifice fly in the third inning, following a double by No. 8 hitter Cody Asche and a Hamels sacrifice bunt.
Hamels also singled and scored on a sixth-inning triple by Jimmy Rollins, who had his 658th multi-hit game to break Richie Ashburn’s franchise record.
Hamels said he knew early on his pitch count was climbing too quickly to have a realistic shot at completing the game, so he didn’t mind when the bullpen took over after six.
The Phillies tacked on two in the ninth against erratic rookie reliever Juan Jaime, who gave up two hits, two runs and two walks in two-thirds of an inning before James Russell replaced him and struck out Byrd to stop the bleeding.
Phillies manager Ryan Sandberg opted to pinch-hit for Hamels with a no-hitter intact, since he was already well over 100 pitches through six innings and they had a chance to add some runs. Hamels had not thrown more than 120 pitches since June 6, when he threw 125.
“You just have to understand the situation, that every time I was going out, I was battling control issues,” Hamels said. “I wasn’t able to get ahead of guys. Just walking the leadoff hitter will put you in a lot of trouble. And it does. It builds up your pitch-count more than you’d like. So I understood coming around the sixth inning that it was going to be a short game.
“Understanding the situation and what was going on, I really wasn’t too worried about it, because we’re just trying to win the game. I have the utmost respect and faith in the bullpen because they’ve been outstanding all year. It’s nice to be able to see what we were able to do together. It was fun to be able to watch them and create something very special.”