Cole Hamels has had special moments like this before, and he expects more in the future. He expects them to be even better.
The lefthander carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning in his Phillies debut on May 12, 2006, in Cincinnati. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning in Houston on Sept. 16, 2006. He struck out 15 in his first complete game, in Cincinnati on April 21, 2007.
But last night, Hamels (5-3) picked up his first shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
"I definitely think it's the best I've pitched so far this year," he said. "That's pretty much all I can remember."
Hamels simply dominated. He threw 22 first-pitch strikes. He threw Ball 3 just three times. He got five first-pitch outs. He allowed a single to Omar Infante with one out in the first inning, but retired the next 15 batters he faced until Gregor Blanco singled with one out in the sixth.
Hamels did not walk a batter until he walked two in the eighth.
"It's been one of those monkeys on my back, getting out of the eighth inning," Hamels said. "That was key because I had those two walks. Being able to get out of the eighth inning and allowing myself the possibilities of the ninth was key for myself and for the team. It was something I was glad I was able to do."
Hamels had a little extra on his fastball, which he located on both sides of the plate. It allowed him to keep his pitch count low, which allowed Charlie Manuel to keep sending him out there.
"Sometimes the luck falls in my place," said Hamels, who also got two hits of his own.
It was hardly luck.
"I knew sooner or later he was going to throw a shutout," Manuel said. "I think you guys did, too. Tonight was a special night for him."
It was the first Phillies shutout since J.D. Durbin blanked the San Diego Padres on July 22 at Petco Park. It was the first Phillies shutout at Citizens Bank Park since Jon Lieber shut out the New York Mets on Aug. 16, 2006.
"His fastball was the best it's been all year," catcher Chris Coste said. "When he's throwing like that, when he's locating his fastball, all of a sudden his curveball and change-up become almost unhittable. When he does that, it's easy for me because at no time is any pitch the wrong pitch. At any time he could have thrown a fastball. At any time he could have thrown a change-up. And when he gets that mix, he's going to have games like tonight."
Ryan Howard, Pedro Feliz and Shane Victorino each homered to help the cause.
But it was Hamels' night.
"He breezed," pitching coach Rich Dubee said.