PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels' bid for a perfect game ended in the seventh inning. Still, his first no-hitter could be coming soon -- just like one of his baffling changeups.
"I think he's going to get some," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "How many, I don't know. He'll get a few."
Hamels retired his first 18 batters and used one of baseball's best changeups to strike out 11, leading Philadelphia to a 6-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night.
As cool with his answers as he is on the mound, Hamels thinks he'll finish a no-no one of these days.
"Oh, of course," he said. "I think every year I try and go out and at least get one. I know if I can keep fighting and keep plugging away, I can go out there and hopefully get one every year."
With fans going wild on every pitch, Hamels (6-1) didn't allow a baserunner until he walked Rickie Weeks to open the seventh. NL home run leader J.J. Hardy followed with Milwaukee's first hit, his 13th homer of the year, to make it 6-2.
A no-hitter will have to wait for the blossoming Hamels, but nothing else rattled the composed lefty. He struck out the final two batters of the seventh and pitched the Phillies (20-20) to the .500 mark for the first time this year.
Still, losing a chance at tossing the first Phillies no-hitter since Kevin Millwood on April 27, 2003, against San Francisco, temporarily deflated the second-year star.
"I was definitely bummed," Hamels said. "You anticipate it and want it so bad. To let it go is so frustrating because you're so close. But you can't dwell on that."
After the first pitch was delayed 92 minutes by rain, Hamels won his fourth straight start and had his sixth career double-digit strikeout game. He gave up two hits and one walk in eight innings before giving way to Brett Myers in the ninth.
Aaron Rowand hit a three-run homer in the second for the Phillies, who evened their record with their sixth win in seven games.
"That's the first thing we needed to do," Manuel said. "Now we need to win one to get over .500 and we've got to ease back into the division (race)."
The NL Central-leading Brewers have lost five of six. Jeff Suppan (5-4) gave up nine hits and six runs -- four earned -- in seven innings.
The 23-year-old Hamels was on his game from the first inning, needing only 11 pitches to strike out the side and earn the first of many standing ovations from the fans behind the Phillies' dugout.
Hamels whiffed Bill Hall to open the second, making it four straight Ks to start the game. Second baseman Chase Utley then made a diving stop of Kevin Mench's grounder, about the only nifty defensive play in the game. Most of the Brewers were swinging and missing.
"He sure looked like he had it early," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "He was tough. That's as good a pitching performance as we've seen all year."
The first real scare of spoiling the no-no came with one out in the sixth when Tony Graffanino's foul pop bounced off the heel of sliding catcher Carlos Ruiz's mitt near the Phillies' dugout. No need for regret there. Hamels went out and fanned Graffanino to make it 17 straight.
"He just kept us off balance," Graffanino said.
The fans in an announced crowd of 42,713 who sat through the delay were on their feet on almost every pitch and going wild on two-strike counts. Hamels gave the faithful something to celebrate, striking out two each in the third and seventh.
"They were screaming on every pitch," a beaming Manuel said.
Plus, Hamels showed he could swing the bat just fine with two singles for his first career multihit game.
Hardy booted a routine grounder at shortstop in the first for an error and the Phillies jumped on the mistake with an RBI double by Jimmy Rollins and a run-scoring single from Pat Burrell.
- Phillies 1B Ryan Howard, on the 15-day disabled list with a left quadriceps strain, started running and could begin a rehab assignment next week. Barring any setbacks, Howard is scheduled to serve a rehab assignment as a designated hitter at Class-A Lakewood on May 23-24. He is eligible to be activated May 25.
- All-Star closer Tom Gordon, who is out with inflammation in his rotator cuff, should start an intensive program next week that would include throwing. Assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he doesn't know when Gordon would begin throwing or be able to pitch competitively.