Cole Hamels expects this from himself every time he steps on the mound.
He says it's well within his reach.
"Every year I try to go out there and at least get one," Hamels said after throwing a perfect game through six innings in a 6-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers last night at Citizens Bank Park. "I know if I can keep fighting and keep plugging away, I'll be able to go out there and get one every year."
Hamels, 23, walked Rickie Weeks to start the seventh, spoiling his perfect game. Then he lost his no-hit bid on the next batter when J.J. Hardy hit a two-run homer to left field. But until that moment, the announced crowd of 42,713 anxiously awaited every at-bat.
The fans cheered every strikeout.
They roared after every inning.
"They were screaming at every pitch after about the second inning," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I looked up and didn't say a word, but in the sixth inning it felt like it was the 15th inning."
Hamels lost the perfect game and no-hitter, but the Phillies have won three straight games and six of their last seven to improve to 20-20 - the first time this season they are .500.
This team finally seems to be rolling.
So is Hamels. In eight innings, he allowed two hits, two runs and one walk. He struck out 11.
He is 6-1 with a 3.30 ERA this season.
Former Phillies lefthander Randy Wolf almost proved to be Nostradamus, or at least Miss Cleo. Now a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wolf said in February: "He'll throw a no-hitter. I would not be surprised if he did it soon.
"He's awesome. He's just got that mentality. He's got that great positive ego. He believes he should be the best out there, but not to the point where he feels like he's a better person or looks down on people. That's huge. He just believes he can be the best, and he's got the stuff to do it."
Hamels showed that immediately in this game. Weeks, Hardy and Prince Fielder each struck out swinging in the first inning, and Bill Hall struck out swinging to start the second. Kevin Mench followed and hit a ball hard to the hole between first and second, but Chase Utley made a nice sliding catch and threw to first in time.
It was the closest thing to a hit until Hardy homered in the seventh.
Hamels, who has not thrown a no-hitter at any level, retired the first 18 batters he faced.
Could it really happen?
In a game that started one hour, 32 minutes late because of rain, Hamels carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Sept. 16 in Houston. But after he walked Jason Lane on a 3-2 pitch with two outs, Adam Everett broke it up with a single.
There were somewhat similar circumstances last night. Hamels lost the perfect game in the seventh when he threw a 3-2 change-up to Weeks for a ball, walking him to lead off the inning. Hamels then threw a 2-1 fastball to Hardy, who hit it over the left-field fence.
"Those seventh innings," Hamels said with a laugh. "Seven is supposed to be a lucky number."
But at least those runs didn't matter. The Phillies had built a big enough lead at that point. They took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and padded it to 5-0 in the second.
Brewers righthander Jeff Suppan walked Carlos Ruiz with two outs in the second. Hamels then singled up the middle to put runners on first and second. Aaron Rowand fouled off the first two pitches from Suppan to put himself in a 0-2 hole, but he hit the next pitch over the left-field fence for a three-run home run.
It would be plenty.
Hamels' 6-1 start is the best for a Phillies starter since Eric Milton began the 2004 season at 7-1. Hamels could be the first Phillies starter to make the all-star team since Wolf in 2003.
"It was all about Cole," Manuel said.
Brewers manager Ned Yost agreed.
"That's as good a pitching performance as you'll see all year," he said.
The hunt for Hamels continues Tuesday in Florida.
"He's going to get some," Manuel said. "How many I don't know, but he's going to get a few."
IP H R ER BB SO NP
8 2 2 2 1 11 114