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Hamels Flirts With Perfection For Surging Phillies

The way Cole Hamels figures it, he'll have plenty more chances to finish a no-hitter _ or maybe even a perfect game.

And he's not the only one who thinks so.

A rising star with a baffling changeup, Hamels retired his first 18 batters and ended the night with 11 strikeouts to lead the surging Philadelphia Phillies past visiting Milwaukee 6-2 on Wednesday.

The left-hander lost his shot at history when Rickie Weeks walked to start the seventh inning and J.J. Hardy hit his NL-leading 13th home run. But the Phillies (20-20) completed their season-long climb to .500, and Hamels sounded confident he'll polish off a few no-hitters before his promising career is over.

``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.''

Now in his second major league season, the 23-year-old Hamels (6-1) allowed only two hits and one walk in eight innings, lowering his ERA to 3.30.

He showed some frustration on the mound after walking Weeks, but nothing else rattled Hamels as a revved-up crowd went wild with every pitch. A no-hitter will have to wait, but he appears to have the stuff and composure to throw one.

``I think he's going to get some,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. ``How many, I don't know. He'll get a few.''

In other NL games, it was: New York 8, Chicago 1; Houston 2, San Francisco 1; Florida 4, Pittsburgh 3; Washington 6, Atlanta 4; Colorado 5, Arizona 3; San Diego 3, Cincinnati 2; and Los Angeles 5, St. Louis 4.

Aaron Rowand hit a three-run homer for the Phillies, who won their sixth in seven games. 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 sure looked like he had it early,'' Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. ``He was tough. That's as good a pitching performance as we've seen all year.''

Brett Myers worked the ninth.

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.

Hamels flirted with Philadelphia's first no-hitter since Kevin Millwood stymied San Francisco on April 27, 2003.

``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.''

Mets 8, Cubs 1

At New York, Jorge Sosa (3-0) allowed one hit in seven-plus innings to win his third straight start since coming up from the minors, and Damion Easley hit a two-run homer in a game that started after a rain delay of 3 hours, 7 minutes.

David Wright and Carlos Gomez each drove in two runs to help the Mets beat Rich Hill (4-3). Jose Reyes left in the eighth with slight tightness in his left hamstring. The game ended at 12:53 a.m. EDT on Thursday _ about 12 hours before the teams were scheduled to play again.

Marlins 4, Pirates 3

At Pittsburgh, Josh Willingham and Miguel Cabrera had RBI doubles in an eighth-inning rally, and Florida won for the second consecutive night after losing four straight. The Pirates lost their 12th in 18 games despite Adam LaRoche's first homer at home this season.

Nationals 6, Braves 4

At Washington, Ryan Church hit a go-ahead, three-run double in the fifth, and Washington's bullpen threw five shutout innings for the Nationals' fifth victory in six games. Jon Rauch earned his second save.

Astros 2, Giants 1

At Houston, Hunter Pence homered for the second consecutive game and went 4-for-4, and fellow rookie Chris Sampson (4-3) pitched the Astros to their fourth straight victory. Dan Wheeler earned his ninth save.

Pence, called up on April 27, is 7-for-7 in the series. He has four homers and 15 RBIs this season. Giants slugger Barry Bonds was 1-for-3 with a single and a walk. He hasn't homered since May 8 and remains 10 from Hank Aaron's career record of 755.

Rockies 5, Diamondbacks 3

At Denver, Brad Hawpe homered twice off Brandon Webb (3-3) and drove in four runs to back Aaron Cook (3-1). It was Hawpe's first multihomer game. Brian Fuentes got his 10th save.

Padres 3, Reds 2

At San Diego, Kevin Kouzmanoff drew a game-winning walk from Bronson Arroyo (2-4) in the ninth and the Padres got another strong outing from Jake Peavy, who has a 1.64 ERA. He struck out five after fanning at least 10 in a franchise-record four straight starts. Kouzmanoff, hitting .137 entering the game, went 3-for-3 with two RBIs.

Dodgers 5, Cardinals 4

At Los Angeles, pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit's three-run homer in the fifth sent the Dodgers to their fifth victory in six games.

Betemit, batting for Randy Wolf (5-3), homered off Kip Wells (1-8). It was Betemit's fourth homer _ three as a pinch hitter. Takashi Saito earned his 13th save. He has converted 23 straight opportunities.

Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who had four hits in each of the previous three games, went 1-for-4 with a walk. The major league record for consecutive four-hit games is four, set by Brooklyn's Milt Stock in 1925.

Wells walked six in five innings and has lost his last seven starts.
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