Baseball seasons are long, too long according to some, and within a 162-game marathon are a number of good days and a number of bad ones.
As far as the 2015 season is concerned, there hasn’t been a better day for the Texas Rangers than July 31. That’s when the Rangers got Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman, with Hamels obviously the headliner, from Philadelphia in a trade-deadline deal.
Tuesday, though, could end up ranking as one of the best of the rest when the season is done.
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The Rangers’ offense broke out of its weeklong funk with four home runs, and the team won for a fifth straight time with Hamels on the mound. All the while, Minnesota lost, Houston lost and Anaheim lost — a winning trifecta ticket for the Rangers’ playoff chances.
Mitch Moreland, Shin-Soo Choo, Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo swatted home runs in a 9-6 victory at Safeco Field, backing Hamels over seven innings and allowing the Rangers to inch closer in the American League West while padding their wild-card lead.
The Rangers trail first-place Houston by only one game in the West, and they lead Minnesota by 2 1/2 games and Anaheim by 4 1/2 games for the second wild card.
“We’re a long ways from where we want to be,” said Moreland, who leads the team with 19 homers. “You really worry about any of the other teams. We come out every day and play hard, and we try to take care of our business can control what we can control.
“If the other teams go down, that’s great. But we’ve got to go out and continue to play hard, win ballgames and put ourselves in our position and not worry about what other teams are doing.”
The Rangers hadn’t homered in four games, and they hadn’t scored more than four runs in their past five. Three of the homers came from the No. 5, No. 7 and No. 8 batters in the lineup.
If the other teams go down, that’s great. But we’ve got to go out and continue to play hard, win ballgames and put ourselves in our position and not worry about what other teams are doing.
Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland
“You need games like this to be able to give our guys confidence,” manager Jeff Banister said. “More than anything else, it reassures us that the approach that we took tonight is the approach that is necessary for us to click on all the cylinders we need.”
It wasn’t a perfect night, with the offense missing chances for more runs in the fourth and sixth and with Hamels stumbling in the seventh with a 7-1 lead.
Seattle scored three in the seventh, but Hamels and the Rangers survived. He also survived in the third, when the Mariners scored their only other run against Hamels and gave him a scare.
Luckily enough, it hit the muscle I guess that I have on me. I’m sure I’ll have a nice bruise in the next couple days.
Rangers lefty Cole Hamels, hit by a line drive
Jesus Sucre sent a liner back to the mound, and it hit Hamels glove and then his shoulder. Hamels did a back somersault as the ball came to rest near third base, but he stayed in an limited the damage from a bases-loaded no-outs jam to just one run.
“I didn’t catch ball, first off,” Hamels said. “I’ve been hit a few times. That’s kind of the nature of the game. Luckily enough, it hit the muscle I guess that I have on me. I’m sure I’ll have a nice bruise in the next couple days.”
Diekman allowed two quick runs in the eighth, but the Rangers got a big contribution from rookie Keone Kela. Pitching for the first time since an elbow scare last week, the right-hander set down the next three batters.
After the Rangers added an insurance run in the ninth, Shawn Tolleson worked a perfect ninth for his 31st save.
“It was good to see Keone get out there,” Banister said. “The fastball was fresh and there was some nice spin on the breaking ball.”
It was nice night for the Rangers. It could prove to be one of the best nights of the season.
The Rangers have won each of Cole Hamels’ past five starts after losing the first two after he was acquired from Philadelphia.
However, there’s plenty of work left to do, and the Rangers need to keep charging.
“You have to push all the way to the last game,” Hamels said. “What I’ve witnessed, the hottest teams are the ones that win. Those are the teams that have to fight every day in September, and they’re the ones that go on to continue into October.”