PHILADELPHIA — Twenty hours after the no-hitter against the Nationals, Caleb Cotham stood in the Phillies dugout and scrolled through the old pictures stored on his phone. He has known Michael Lorenzen for years and, when the two were reunited this month, Lorenzen said something that stuck in the pitching coach’s head. It’s the smallest things that coalesce to make a random Wednesday night in August special.
“I mean,” Cotham said, “a photo in 2019 had a small part in it.”
So did a superstar playing a new position for only the 11th time. So did a third baseman, borderline unplayable there 16 months ago, ranging into foul territory to field a chopper. So did two rookies in the outfield who between them have less than a month in the majors. So did two bench players who formed an unlikely double-play tandem for the first time all season.
A no-hitter is a team effort; there were 22 balls put in play, and the Phillies arranged an unusual defense behind Lorenzen. For the first time all season, manager Rob Thomson submitted a lineup that did not have Bryson Stott, Trea Turner, Brandon Marsh and Kyle Schwarber in the field.
Weston Wilson was in left field. Johan Rojas was in center. Edmundo Sosa played shortstop for the first time in two weeks. Rodolfo Castro started at second base for the first time since the Phillies plucked him from Pittsburgh’s Triple-A roster.
“It seems to happen like that,” said Wilson, who homered in his big-league debut. “When crazy things happen, something is usually different about it.”
A lot was different. Earlier in the day, inside the Diamond Club at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies held a ring ceremony for all of their full-time employees. Everyone relived the feeling from last October when the Phillies won the pennant. Hours later, almost naturally, the Phillies players formed a mosh pit near the mound.
With 124 Lorenzen pitches to complete the 14th no-hitter in Phillies history, those vibes were back.
“I think it just brings you a little bit closer,” Thomson said. “That was probably in my entire career, for a regular-season game, the coolest game. Because of all the things that happened.”
There was Wilson’s debut homer and Nick Castellanos’ 199th and 200th homers. There was drama, but most of it manifested in a rising pitch count.
“I was thinking back,” Bohm said, “and I don’t really remember a specific play where it was like, ‘Oh, that saved it.’ There really wasn’t a crazy play or anything. A pretty cool thing all around.”
But the little things were everywhere.
“Everything,” Sosa said. “Crazy. Incredible.”
Lorenzen trusts Cotham from their shared days in Cincinnati. One of the first things the righty shared after the Phillies traded for him was that he could not find his good changeup. “My changeup’s my best pitch and it hasn’t been my changeup,” Lorenzen said. In Miami, before Lorenzen pitched, Cotham snapped a photo of Lorenzen’s current changeup grip. Then, the pitching coach remembered something.
“He had a picture of my grip from 2019 when it was at its best,” Lorenzen said. “We were able to see differences in how I’m gripping my changeup now. He’s like. ‘I’ve had these pictures on my phone all these years now and this is the only time it’s ever paid off and it’s all worth it.’ I mean, absolutely. Because my changeup was my good changeup.”
Why did Cotham keep the photo he had taken in 2019?
“For this reason,” Cotham said. “Just because grips change unintentionally. It’s the one thing that we have a tough time with.”
In the no-hitter, Lorenzen threw more changeups in a start than he ever had before. Washington hitters whiffed at eight of them. Seven of his 27 outs came on a changeup.
They had tried the old grip during a bullpen session between his Miami start and the no-hitter.
“He was really excited about it,” Cotham said. “It was a little bit of belief, too, that helped. Some of that stuff will never show up in a metric. I do think it was better. It had a little more depth. But, visually, the hitters’ reactions. The feeling it created. It was a good pitch for him. So, it was cool. That’s why you keep notes sometimes. You’re hoping that it will help down the road. You don’t want to look back and say, ‘Man, I wish we had this.’”
The little things.
“I think,” Lorenzen said, “that was the missing piece.”
When the 27th out landed in Rojas’ glove, he screamed and jumped. Then, he stuffed the ball in his back pocket. Rojas recorded an astounding nine putouts — the most ever by a center fielder in a no-hitter.
Less than a month ago, he was in Double A. He has since developed a reputation as one of the best defensive outfielders in the entire sport. Lorenzen had Rojas — more than anyone — to thank for the no-hitter. Rojas kept the last out secure.
“After we all gave each other hugs and celebrated as a team, I took a moment to take it out of my back pocket and gave it to him,” Rojas said through a team interpreter. “I said, ‘This is yours. This belongs to you.’”
The reserves in the lineup for the no-hitter needed time to process it. They appreciated the moment — and the little things that put them on the field for this special night.
Welcome to Citizens Bank Park, Michael Lorenzen pic.twitter.com/4PpNBAiXky
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 10, 2023
“It was just incredible to have gotten here in the first place. And then to have an opportunity to start in a game like that and be a part of that. I’ve seen a no-hitter broken up with two outs in the ninth and that was devastating. But, I think, really once we got that first out in the ninth, I said, ‘He’s going to do it.’ I didn’t doubt it for a second.
“I think that was big for me to get a ball in the first inning. Get the monkey off my back. It took a lot of pressure off me just getting that done.
“It’s been a lot to try to process. It’s like a dream that I’ve been living. It’s hard to put words to describe it.”
“It’s hard to describe. It’s really impressive what he did. Just to be on the field for that and to help him fulfill that achievement means a lot to me.
“It’s amazing what he was able to do. Just to know we all were able to contribute with a little piece, doing our part to help him fulfill that big accomplishment, means the world to me. Yeah, I wasn’t expecting to see something like that. You never think it’s going to be one of those days.
“It’s one of those things you will never forget in your life.”
“It’s something extremely difficult to do in baseball. To have the privilege of being part of it means a lot to me. It’s one of those things you never really think about. But when you’re there in the moment, you understand how special it can be. Even if I had been on the bench, I would have been pulling for him. Everyone was excited for him. Everyone wanted him to get this done because it’s something very special for him and for all of us.
“Last night, I was in bed with my wife and we were just talking for hours. Like two hours. Just talking about how special this was and how exciting it was to see Lorenzen’s family in the crowd just praying and crying and celebrating. It’s a big moment. It’s a huge accomplishment. So when you look back and you know I was part of that, it’s one of those moments that makes you feel really, really proud of yourself. I’m super proud and it’s one of the highlights of my career.”
“It was an incredible night. Honestly, the one thing I wish for is for Marsh to get healthy because I know he would have loved to be a part of it too. He’s worked really hard to be there too. But, obviously, it’s great that I have a part here too.
“When I got home last night, I started watching videos on social media. And it hit me. It was like, ‘Wow. I was actually part of a no-hitter.’ This is amazing. You never think of something like that. And here I am. I was actually part of it.
“When you think about it, it’s crazy that I made a third of the outs. But that speaks to the work that we put in here. I have to give credit to Castellanos and Wilson because we had great communication in the outfield. We go out there with the coaching staff and we practice so we do a good job on the field when it matters most. It’s a big team accomplishment and I’m very happy for all of us — especially for Lorenzen.”
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(Top photo: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)