ANAHEIM, Calif. — Yes, Cole Hamels has seen the standings.
No, he’s not worried.
The Texas Rangers opened the season by getting swept by the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians, and Hamels was the starting pitcher in the final game of the series.
And although the Rangers rallied to win two of three from the Oakland A’s over the weekend, they still are ahead of only the Seattle Mariners in the American League West.
So when Hamels was asked if his start against the hot Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday in Anaheim had any added significance to help turn around his club’s slow start, he scoffed.
Hamels has plenty of experience that tells him otherwise, that tells him the grind is only beginning.
“I’ve played for numerous Phillies teams where we lost numerous games the first couple of weeks, but we were able to get it back and win our division,” he said. “It’s not necessarily what you want to do because I know this division is very tough. but at the same time I think guys are just getting the feel of the situation.
“We’ve faced some pretty tough pitchers. It’s just a matter of getting in that rhythm. Like you saw last year, when we get in that rhythm we can rattle off 19 of 22 games like we did last year.”
Hamels was the MVP of both the National League Championship Series and World Series while with the Phillies in 2008, so he knows pressure. Hamels is someone who looks at the big picture, and Tuesday’s game against the Angels is just a blip.
He also knows the Angels are off to a good start, coming off a sweep of the Seattle Mariners that included a seven-run rally in the ninth inning that resulted in a 10-9 win on Sunday.
The much-improved Los Angeles offense scored 20 runs in the three-game series.
“I know Anaheim has tremendous hitters and they’re a lot better lineup than they had last year,” Hamels said. “You look at the strength that their lineup possesses and how they’re going to attack them. I need to establish getting quick outs.
“It’s about being aggressive and limiting your pitches. Every April you’re building, but you also need to answer the call of the season.”
Having spent most of his career in the National League, Hamels hasn’t faced the Angels a lot. But in his five career starts, he’s 2-1 against the Angels with a 3.27 ERA, including one complete game.
He will be up against left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who is simply trying to get his career going. Skaggs missed the 2015 season and half of 2016 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Skaggs lost his first start of the season last week against Oakland, giving up five runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He is 2-1 with a 5.49 ERA in four career starts vs. Texas.
Many in the Angels organization believe the 25-year-old Skaggs has the potential to be a No. 1 starter, but the clock is always ticking and, eventually, potential must be turned into performance.
“At some point a young pitcher needs to jump off that ledge and climb to a higher ledge,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the Orange County Register. “He’s got great stuff. As he harnesses it and understands putting pitches together and stays healthy, he’s going to pitch to that potential.
“I think he knows, at some point, all that potential and upside needs to show up. He’s working hard to make that happen this year.”