- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 2, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - The biggest number for Cole Hamels after six innings wasn’t the zero in the hits allowed column but the 108 pitches thrown by the Philadelphia Phillies’ starter.

That was enough, even though it meant giving up a chance at reaching one of baseball’s most special personal milestones.

No worries. The boys in the bullpen gave the entire pitching staff something to celebrate as a team.

Hamels and three Phillies relievers combined on the season’s fourth no-hitter, blanking the Atlanta Braves 7-0 on Monday and giving a last-place team a rare reason to rejoice.

It was all the more unusual in that Hamels left with his bid intact after six. He was fine with the decision, too, having already exceeded the century mark in pitches at a hot afternoon at Turner Field.

Hamels (8-6) struck out seven, matched a season high with five walks and hit a batter.

“Just understanding the situation, every time I went out there I was battling control issues,” Hamels said. “I wasn’t getting ahead of guys. Walking the leadoff hitter will put you in a lot of trouble, and it does. It builds up your pitch count.”

So the bullpen bailed him out.

Relievers Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon each pitched a perfect inning to close out the 11th combined no-hitter in big league history. A smiling Hamels watched from the bench as they finished what he started.

“I think having a combined no-hitter is very difficult because guys have to come right in and get the guys out, no matter what the situation is,” Hamels said. “It’s a little more dramatic to be able to see that you’re trying to play the cards as best you can against the lineup.”

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg knew Hamels was tired and ready to come out of the game. Their conversation was quick.

“It didn’t take long,” Sandberg said. “He was pretty well spent there. The early innings had something to do with it. The stressful innings, stranding the runners at second and third a couple of times, but he wasn’t going to go nine. And he ran the bases the inning before.”

Hamels singled in the sixth in his only official at-bat and came around to score.

Papelbon was in the middle of the hugs and handshakes on the mound when the game was over.

“I think it’s a cool experience,” Papelbon said. “It’s definitely been a rough go at it this year for our ballclub. Something to kind of hang our hat on for the year. Cole has been our bona fide ace for the entire the season, and it’s good to preserve those wins for our starters. Today it was preserving a no-hitter.”

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