In Game 2, Cole Hamels gave up two earned runs, struck out six and walked none. The Rangers would love a repeat performance.
It comes down to Game 5. Cole Hamels versus Marcus Stroman. Yes, it would have been nice if the Rangers had won one of the last two to avoid this mess. But they didn’t.
The popular narrative in the media is that Rangers fans should be happy that this team is even in the post-season because they weren’t even expected to be here. While I get that, I don’t buy it. For one reason: They are here. What else is a fan supposed to do other than expect them to win? Especially when they defied the odds and won the first two.
But if you look at the last two games, you can see why the Rangers lost both. Hint, it wasn’t starting pitching (although Holland’s start Monday was horrible). They lost because of their offense. It had all the excitement of a nil-nil soccer game.
In Game 3, the Rangers never got their first batter of any inning on base. (By contrast, the Blue Jays got their leadoff hitter on in four of its nine innings.) It becomes exponentially difficult to manufacture runs when you are automatically starting with one or two outs. In fact, in only two of those nine innings did they get their second batter on.
Futility, thy name is Rangers
In Game 4, the Rangers got their lead-off hitter on only twice. Which means, in eighteen total innings at the Ballpark, the Rangers put themselves behind the eight ball in sixteen of them. If there is Viagra for a team’s offense, the Rangers need a few cases for Game 5.
So now the entire season comes down to Cole Hamels. As it did in Game 162. He is the best pitcher the Rangers could hope to have take the mound.
Counting Game 2 of this series, Hamels has started thirteen games as a Ranger. The Rangers have won eleven of those. The last eleven, in fact. One of the two games they didn’t win came about when the Rangers bullpen squandered the lead he left them.
So, as a Sabermatrician can tell you, Hamels as a Ranger has a NSBS win percentage of 92.3. (NSBS=Non Scheppers Blown Save).
I fully expect the Rangers to win because Hamels is a big game pitcher. In 2008 he was named M.V.P. of both the National League playoffs and the World Series. It was a performance that impressed baseball writer Jason Stark to write of him:
“The names on the list who have carved their legends in the month of October now they have company, a twenty-four-year-old left-hander named Cole Hamels. And with every time the Phillies handed him the baseball in October 2009, it became more apparent that he is one of the sports’ most special talents.”
Who else would you want on the mound today?
It’s time for Cole to carve his name into Rangers lore.