Hammel takes the mound as Royals seek series split with Rangers

The Texas Rangers have, by necessity due to a slew of injuries, relied on their young players to pick up the slack though most of the first quarter of the 2018 season.

But it was a pair of the Rangers’ older and established players who carried them to a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday afternoon to guarantee a split of a four-game series.

The Royals will send right-hander Jason Hammel (1-5, 5.70 ERA) to the mound Sunday afternoon in the series finale at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, to oppose Rangers ace left-hander Cole Hamels (3-4, 3.38).

On Saturday, in the searing heat in north Texas, 45-year old Bartolo Colon pitched seven innings of three-run, five-hit baseball that kept his team in the game.

Then 35-year-old designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo ended the game in the bottom of the 10th with an opposite-field solo home run.

“Winning games always make us happy and we played a good game through the 10 innings,” Choo said. “I had a hitter’s count, and I just tried to hit the ball hard, and I made good contact.”

It was Choo’s eighth home run of the season and allowed the Rangers to win for the second straight game. Choo, who is from South Korea, moved past Japan’s Hideki Matsui for most home runs in MLB history by a player from Asia with 176.

Colon is the 14th pitcher since 1920 to go at least seven innings in a start after his 45th birthday.

Meanwhile, prior to Saturday’s game, the Royals placed left-handed starter Eric Skoglund on the 10-day disabled list with a left ulnar collateral ligament sprain, an injury that often leads to Tommy John surgery and a year or more of rehabilitation.

Skoglund said Saturday that his elbow has been bothering him for much of the season. He will undergo an MRI, likely Monday, after the Royals return home from Texas.

“It’s something that’s been eating at me for about six weeks — it’s just frustrating,” Skoglund told MLB.com. “You put in so much work to help this team win, and then you do get the opportunity and something like this happens. It’s not fun. I want answers and hopefully we get something out of (the MRI), and we go from there.”

The Royals activated rookie left-hander Eric Stout on Saturday to take Skoglund’s place on the active roster. Stout has made two major league appearances, allowing three earned runs in two relief innings in late April.

Hammel will make his 11th start of the season as Kansas City concludes a seven-game road trip. He snapped a 13-start winless streak with a 5-1 victory in St. Louis on Tuesday. He gave up one run on nine hits with no walks and a season-high six strikeouts over seven innings.

He’s 1-2 with a 6.37 ERA in six road starts this season. Globe Life Park is one of four parks Hammel has pitched in and not picked up a win.

Hammel is 1-3 with a 4.66 ERA in eight games (six starts) versus Texas.

Hamels also will make his 11th start of the season. He has five consecutive starts with two earned runs or fewer, tied for the fourth-longest streak in the American League this year.

He will be working on regular four days of rest after picking up the win in the Rangers’ 6-4 victory on Tuesday versus New York. Hamels completed a season-best seven innings in the win and received a season-high six runs of support after getting one run from the Rangers’ offense in four of his previous five outings.

Hamels is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in five starts versus Kansas City.