The Houston Astros visit Globe Life Park beginning Monday for a critical four-game series, a series that Cole Hamels would not pitch in without the Texas Rangers’ tweaking their starting rotation.
A tweak is being strongly considered after the Rangers entered Wednesday only one game behind Houston for the American League West lead.
Right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez was pulled from his start Wednesday in the Pacific Coast League playoffs after only two innings, a decision that came from Arlington in case the Rangers decide to slide him into the rotation this weekend against Oakland.
5 Consecutive games won by the Rangers in games started by Cole Hamels, acquired from the Phillies at the July 31 trade deadline.
Doing so would bump Hamels from his scheduled start Sunday and into the opener against the division-leading Astros. It would also line up Hamels for the Astros series Sept. 25-27 in Houston and a potential wild-card game or first game of a best-of-five division series.
To keep the rotation in its current order would give Hamels five starts the rest of the season, including the regular-season finale Oct. 4 against the Los Angeles Angels and leave Holland to start a wild-card game or division series opener.
Manager Jeff Banister said that the Rangers have only one window to do it. He likes the thought of Hamels against the Astros twice but also didn’t want to take focus away from the here and now.
“I like the rhythm of our rotation and how they’re feeding off each other,” Banister said. “I believe in that momentum. It’s real.”
A rotation tweak also would line up Hamels for the Astros series Sept. 25-27 in Houston and a potential wild-card game or first game of a best-of-five division series.
Gonzalez was last used by the Rangers last month for two starts after Hamels needed to be bumped back a few days because of a sore groin. Gonzalez allowed eight runs in 11 2/3 innings, and the Rangers went 1-1 in his starts.
He is 0-2 in two starts this season against Oakland.
The Rangers have won five straight games started by Hamels, acquired from Philadelphia at the July 31 trade deadline. That includes a win Tuesday against Seattle in which he allowed four runs in seven innings and survived a scare in the third inning when he was hit in the shoulder by a Jesus Sucre line drive that first hit his glove.
“I’m fine,” Hamels said. “Just a good ol’ booster-shot feel. I’m sure everyone knows how to relate to that.”
DeShields on Friday?
Center fielder Delino DeShields tested his mildly sprained left knee by running at 80 percent in straight lines and on the bases, and the rookie is likely to return Friday for the Oakland series.
DeShields said that he has been told that there is no structural damage in the knee and that his pain tolerance will dictate when he can play again. Banister said that DeShields, who was hurt Monday, will not play Thursday against Seattle in the finale of a four-game series.
“It’s not going to snap on me,” DeShields said. “It bent enough where it aggravated the nerves in the ligament. A lot of it is mental and not being afraid to do something just because of how my knee might feel.”
Holland vs. King
Left-hander Derek Holland won’t be tasked with getting Felix Hernandez out Thursday at Safeco Field, barring something really odd, but he will be tasked with matching zeroes with the former Cy Young winner.
[Felix Hernandez] is a great pitcher, but I’ve got to go out and show that I’m one, too.
Derek Holland on Thursday’s pitching matchup
Holland also believes that the key to his sixth start since coming off the disabled list will be shutting down the Mariners immediately following a Rangers rally. Of all the things Holland did well Saturday at Anaheim, he was peeved that he allowed an Angels run in the first after the Rangers had given him a 1-0 lead.
“My thing is, when we get a run, I’ve got to get that shutdown inning,” he said. “I’ve got to go out there and be me. [Hernandez] is a great pitcher, but I’ve got to go out and show that I’m one, too.”