"He says that because he knows there's room for improvement, but [come on]," reliever J.C. Romero said. "If you go around the league, I'm sure starting pitchers would take about 15 of those outings. I remember in Boston, when he said he was going to win 20 games, a lot of guys thought that was crazy. Then I came here and saw how he approached the game. I see it's for real. In my book, he's an ace."
The ace, or 1-A to Brett Myers' 1-B, felt "OK" in the bullpen before his outing, though catcher Carlos Ruiz disputes that. Ruiz knew what was in store when Hamels' warmup
pitches were at the knees.
Hamels didn't record double-digit strikeouts, walked two and needed 111 pitches to get through seven innings. Many of his outs came via fly balls, which sometimes mean trouble in Philadelphia.
"It's a scary feeling, especially in this ballpark," Hamels said. "In the summer, those things will be five rows deep. I felt better after the third inning. It's part of the game. I lucked out. They hit a lot of balls hard that I left over the plate -- right at guys. I wasn't hitting my usual location. It's one of those things where I'm thanking our defense."
Lucked out? Does he know he gave up one hit?
"I've faced guys [on the Cubs] two or three times, and maybe I have them fooled and off-balance that it can allow me to get away with a poor game," Hamels said. "I know they're in there thinking they hit some balls hard and have nothing to show for it, so I got the better end of the deal."
The Phillies did, too. On a night when Jimmy Rollins missed his fourth straight game -- and will miss his fifth on Sunday -- and Shane Victorino landed on the 15-day disabled list, Hamels provided the Tums for manager Charlie Manuel's upset stomach. Manuel can worry about his top-of-the-lineup conundrum on Sunday, and relish Hamels' seven sterling innings on Saturday.
Hamels (2-1) allowed just Derrek Lee's double in the fourth and fired 72 of his 111 pitches for strikes. The lefty has shown many times that he's capable of nights like this, and produced another in front of 45,072 fans at chilly Citizens Bank Park.
Philadelphia plated two runs off Ted Lilly (0-2) in the second, when Pedro Feliz smacked his second home run in three days, a two-run blast. Ryan Howard also hit his second homer in three days, a two-run homer as part of a three-run fifth.
By the end, the Phillies ended up with five more runs than they needed, thanks to Hamels. In three starts, the lefty has an 0.84 ERA.
Just wait until he improves.
"I'm glad he saved the no-hitter for another day," said catcher Chris Coste, who has a long-standing agreement to receive a car should he catch a Hamels no-hitter. "He was a lot better than he thought. The thing is, he wants to strike out 15 and doesn't want to walk any, so anything short of either one of those won't work."