Adrian Beltre may be the face of the Rangers but Cole Hamels is the backbone.
When the Rangers really need him to step up, he finds another gear.
Remember the last game of the regular season last year that was set up because of the second-to-the-last game?
Game 161 was a monumental collapse by the Rangers bullpen, giving up five runs in the ninth and turning a 10-6 lead into an 11-10 loss in soul crushing fashion.
The bullpen was spent. The Rangers were running out of gas. Their lead was just one game going into the last game. And suddenly this team was looking at the very real possibility that it would have to settle for a wild card slot.
Cole Hamels came up huge. He gave up two runs in the top of the first, then settled down to dominate the Angels for a complete game win that sealed the American League West championship.
While yesterday’s game didn’t have as much at stake, it was, in many ways, just as important.
The Rangers were in free-fall mode, having lost eleven of fourteen. The Rangers had lost four in a row and were in danger of their longest losing streak of the season. They were in danger of coming out of the All-Star break winless. And they were in danger of losing that huge ten-game lead they had seen whittled down to four-and-a-half games.
Really, they were in real danger of collapsing.
(Let’s hope we can keep saying “were” and yesterday’s game wasn’t a temporary break in the gravitational pull.)
But when Cole Hamels struck out the first six Cubs hitters, you knew he was in for something special.
He delivered in a huge way once again, allowing just four hits, no walks, and striking out seven in eight suffocating innings at Wrigley, the same place he threw a no-hitter his last visit before the Rangers acquired him.
The Rangers won 4-1 and are 14-5 when Hamels starts this season. But no victory was more important than yesterday’s.
It stopped the bleeding. But is also showed (as if there was any doubt) how important starting pitching is to this team. And how important it is to find some in the next two weeks.
While they are looking, they need to see if another Cole Hamels is available. We could sure use one more. Or two more. We have too many of the other kind.
A. J. Griffin (3-1, 3.81) vs. Nick Tropeano (3-2 , 3.12)
Game time: 9:05 pm