Rangers, Hamels beat Angels; win AL West on final day
Apparently Cole Hamels doesn’t believe in ghosts.
A day after a Texas meltdown with a four-run lead in the ninth inning evoked memories of the 2011 World Series and put the Rangers playoff picture in limbo, Hamels take matters in his own hands.
The Texas ace delivered in Game 162 of the season, helping the Rangers clinch their first American League West crown since 2011 by pitching a complete-game three-hitter in a 9-2 Texas win.
The Rangers will open the playoffs Thursday at Toronto in the American League Division Series. They’ll do so knowing they have the hammer they traded for after Hamels didn’t allow a hit after the second inning and struck out eight.
Texas has now won the last 10 games Hamels has started for them and he went out with a basic gameplan Sunday.
"All I was thinking about was trying to manage the game and limit baserunners and go as deep as I could go," said Hamels. "I knew we were going to score runs. It was just a matter of time."
That time came in the seventh inning when the Rangers broke open a 3-2 game by putting up six runs against the Los Angeles bullpen. It came a day after the Angels scored five times in the ninth to deny the Rangers a chance to clinch the West.
The Rangers knew that with Hamels on the mound, they wouldn’t need to do too much.
"We had a good opportunity that inning and everybody was focused on great at-bats," said Shin-Soo Choo, who walked and scored in the seventh. "That was what we needed to do. We know Cole Hamels. He told everybody and he showed why he’s a great pitcher in the league."
The Rangers were in an early 2-0 hole after Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer off Hamels. Texas got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning and then Hamels went to work.
He didn’t allow a hit after Shane Victorino doubled with one out in the second. He retired 23 of the final 26 batters he faced and manager Jeff Banister had no double who he wanted on the mound when David Freese grounded out to second to end the game.
"You know what, big players step up in big spots," Banister said. "That’s why we got him and why we started him in the last game. He did exactly what the team needed. He got nicked in the first inning, stayed strong and stayed rock solid."
As solid as Hamels was, the Rangers didn’t get the lead for him until Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead. While that was nice, the Rangers proved Saturday that no lead is safe.
They did what they could to change that in the seventh inning.
Texas sent 10 hitters to the plate as the Angels were forced to use five relievers to get through the 37-minute ½ inning.
Five-consecutive Rangers hitters picked up RBI. The run started with a bases-loaded walk from designated hitter Prince Fielder and ended when shortstop Elvis Andrus ripped a two-run double to left.
That big frame, plus having Hamels on the mound, turned the final two innings into a celebration for the 45,772 who were at Globe Life Park.
It’s one they don’t want to end either.
"What we went through to get to this point, unbelievable," said first baseman Mitch Moreland, who had a sacrifice fly in the seventh. "We went through a lot of adversity just to come out to where we are on the last game of the season. It’s unbelievable."
- Adrián Béltre
- Albert Pujols
- Cole Hamels
- Elvis Andrus
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- Garrett Richards
- Houston Astros
- Los Angeles Angels
- Mike Trout
- Shane Victorino
- Shin-Soo Choo
- Texas Rangers
- Yu Darvish