July 14, 2016

CHICAGO -- Cole Hamels returns to the scene of his greatest career triumph on Sunday.

The Texas Rangers left-hander (9-2, 3.21 ERA) makes his first Wrigley Field appearance since pitching a no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs on July 25, 2015.

Hamels struck out 13 and walked two in the Phillies' 5-0 victory.

"Things line up every once in a while in a season and in your career and I just happened to do it at that time," Hamels said before Sunday's 19th start of the season. "It's obviously a memory that everybody on that field and in the dugout will remember. Quite a few Cub fans were applauding, just a fun ordeal."

The no-hitter ended up being Hamels' last appearances with a Phillies organization he spent nearly 10 seasons with.

"Not too many people get to have a sendoff like I did," Hamels said. "It was the last start I had on a team that I was with from the very beginning and you're around guys you came up with the develop good relations with.

"I had Carlos Ruiz there -- he's one of the best catchers in the league -- and we had a real good system working, especially on that day we were definitely on the right page. Everything seemed to work out perfectly."

Hamels' gem came at a very opportune time as the 2015 trading deadline approached, the Phillies were willing to deal and it arguably raised Hamels' value to a contending team.

Texas was willing to pay the price.

In addition to Hamels, the Rangers acquired left-handed pitcher Jake Diekmann. But they gave up starter Matt Harrison and minor league prospects Jorge Alfaro (catcher), Nick Williams (outfielder), Jake Thompson (pitcher), Alec Asher (pitcher) and Jerad Eickhoff (pitcher) to the Phillies.

Now an ace for a team that entered the weekend interleague series with the American League's top record, Hamels worked a scoreless third inning -- retiring three Cubs -- in the AL's 4-2 All-Star Game victory on Tuesday in his hometown of San Diego.

Hamels did not factor into a decision in his last start, a 6-5 victory over Minnesota on July 8. Hamels tossed 4 1/3 innings and gave up five runs and five hits, walked six and struck out four.

Hamels will face Cubs right-hander John Lackey.

Lackey is no stranger to the Rangers. His 40 previous meetings are his most against any opponent and fifth most by any active pitcher against any opponent. But will be his first start against Texas since 2014.

He's 14-15 all time against the Rangers.

Lackey is looking to break a five-game winless streak that included a rocky start in the Cubs' 9-5 July 5 loss to the Reds.

"Honestly, besides the first inning with some crazy stuff, I felt like I threw the ball pretty good," Lackey said. "It wasn't an ideal day to pitch for sure. It was one of those days. I really thought once we scored the four runs we were going to have a chance to come back in that game."

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