Rangers’ Hamels looks for first career win vs. Jays

It seems that Texas first baseman Joey Gallo has found a home in the middle of the lineup and will continue to bat in the that run-producing spot when the Rangers square off against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon in the rubber match of a three-game series at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Tex.

Gallo hit in the No. 2 spot in the Rangers’ first nine games but was moved to the five-hole Saturday and it seemed to make a difference as he had a hit, walked twice, knocked in two runs and score two times in Texas’ 5-1 victory over the Blue Jays.

Until Saturday, no other Rangers’ player had even taken a swing as the No. 2 batter this season, and Gallo had produced a .184 batting average in that spot. Something had to change, so Texas manager Jeff Banister moved Gallo to a spot where he thought Gallo would be more in tune.

“This was a case of me thinking, maybe we can back off the flame a little bit right now and allow Joey to get in more of a comfort zone,” Banister said before Saturday’s game. “You want a still-developing young player to be as comfortable as he can be.”

Gallo scored the Rangers first run Saturday on a Ryan Rua sacrifice fly in the second inning and drove home two with a double in the fifth that helped break open the game and make a winner out of Mike Minor.

Minor allowed one run on two hits over six innings, struck out seven and gave up just two walks — to the first two batters of the game — in earning his first win with the Rangers.

Sunday’s game will be a matchup of left-hander Jaime Garcia (0-0, 1.50 ERA) for the Blue Jays and Texas left-hander Cole Hamels (1-1, 3.38 ERA).

Garcia was forced to settle for a no-decision in his Blue Jays debut after allowing one run on four hits in six innings while striking out seven against Chicago on April 2 in a game Toronto won 4-2.

“He can pitch,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said about Garcia after the win against the White Sox. “You guys have heard me say this — and I’ve had a lot of them — guys that come out of Mexico can pitch. They know how to pitch. He’s got a great feel. They’re not always overpowering, hard throwers. They just know what they’re doing.”

Hamels will be making his third start of the season and will be pitching on regular four days’ rest after earning the win Tuesday at Oakland. He allowed one run on five hits in five innings with 11 strikeouts and three walks in Texas’ 4-1 victory.

The 11-strikeout performance marked the most by any pitcher in an outing of five innings or fewer in franchise history (since 1961).

He recorded his first eight outs in that game via strikeout, the first Rangers pitcher to do that and second in franchise history.

Hamels is 0-2 with a 6.97 ERA in four career regular-season starts against Toronto. He last faced the Blue Jays in regular season May 6, 2014 when he was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies’ staff but faced Toronto three times in the 2015-16 Rangers/Jays American League Division Series, going 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in those three games.

Toronto is one of two of the 30 MLB teams Hamels has not defeated in his career. He has never faced the Phillies.