PHILADELPHIA -- The black bat never left Chase Utley's shoulder, not when Josh Beckett fired a 94-mph fastball past him, and not when he retreated to the Phillies dugout. Beckett, the 34-year-old Texan, opened his arms Sunday for a hug. At 4:18 p.m., he became the first pitcher in 36 years to throw a no-hitter against the Phillies.
The Los Angeles Dodgers danced on the grass at Citizens Bank Park to celebrate a 6-0 win. Outfielder Scott Van Slyke yanked Beckett's blue cap from his head so teammates could tousle the pitcher's jet black hair. His transformation from a hard-throwing former top pick to a shrewd veteran pitcher crystallized in 2 hours, 37 minutes at the mercy of the Phillies.
"I knew the whole time," Beckett said. "I was actually joking about it in the fourth inning. I said I was waiting for them to get a hit. You don't think at this point of your career that you are going to do that."
There were no challenging plays made behind Beckett. The Phillies, on a day when fans received Wiffle ball bats with Ryne Sandberg's signature, were lifeless. It was the sixth shutout loss for the Phillies in their last 18 games. They are 21-26, their worst record through 47 games since 2005.
"He was good," Jimmy Rollins said. "There's no more to be said."
"It's definitely not a good feeling," Ben Revere said.
"I just thought he had real good stuff down to the last hitter," Sandberg said.
That last hitter was Utley, who worked a 3-1 count. He took Beckett's 127th pitch, an outside curveball, and dashed for first. But home-plate umpire Brian Knight called a strike, and the battle continued. Beckett contemplated his strategy. He opted for a fastball.
"I was trying to think along with him," Beckett said. "I don't think he was looking for a fastball down the middle, especially when a guy has a no-hitter."
The pitch was close, but too close to watch with a no-hitter at stake. Utley did not protest. He hopped from the batter's box and disappeared into the dugout. The second baseman had dressed and departed when the Phillies clubhouse opened to reporters; typically, Utley spends considerable time digesting video after a game.
"We had our best hitter up there and he had a backdoor breaking pitch and a fastball at the knees," Sandberg said. "That's an indication right there. He was tough."
Domonic Brown hit the hardest ball, a fifth-inning liner deep to the warning track that Dodgers leftfielder Carl Crawford snared. The rest of the Phillies were silenced with relative ease. Just Utley, Marlon Byrd and Rollins reached, each on walks. At one point, Beckett retired 23 batters in a row.
The last pitcher to no-hit the Phillies was St. Louis' Bob Forsch on April 16, 1978. Larry Bowa, the Phillies bench coach, was 0 for 4 and recorded the 27th out, a grounder to third. Mike Schmidt, a broadcaster for Sunday's game, went 0 for 3.
That 36-year streak of avoiding futility was topped only by the Chicago Cubs, who were last no-hit when Sandy Koufax threw a perfect game on Sept. 9, 1965.
Beckett started eight games in 2013. He underwent surgery last summer to remove a rib that caused a nerve issue in his hand. The former No. 2 overall pick used to throw a fastball that clocked 96 mph. That pitch sat around 92 mph on Sunday. When combined with a change-up and slow curve, it was unhittable.
He tallied a high pitch count in the early innings, but the Phillies pressed in later innings. Beckett reached the sixth at 90 pitches. He threw 10 in the seventh and 10 more in the eighth. It was too easy.
"I wasn't coming out of the game," Beckett said. "I don't care if I had 200 pitches."
Thus, the ninth inning offered drama. Rollins worked a full count with two outs and walked. Beckett said he escaped with a mistake to Rollins, an elevated 92-mph fastball that Rollins drilled foul. Utley succumbed on six pitches.
"The attitude of our guys is to get right back out there tomorrow," Sandberg said. "That's the character of these guys. They have bounced back from some losses and some tough games. So I don't anticipate that it will" stick with them.
But on this day, the lethargy spread to the field. A.J. Burnett allowed a run just four batters into the afternoon. Los Angeles put the game away with a three-run seventh that created further embarrassment for Brown, one of the game's worst everyday players when measured by OPS. Yasiel Puig grounded a single to Brown. The leftfielder lackadaisically approached it, and Puig never stopped. He slid into second with a hustle double. The fans booed.
The ultimate indignity occurred two innings later, and Phillies fans recorded it on their smartphones. They stood to applaud an opponent. A whiteboard inside the Dodgers clubhouse read, "BUSES TOGETHER WHENEVER BECKETT IS READY TO LEAVE." No one could blame him for savoring this one.
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