Cole Hamels struck out the first six Chicago Cubs batters Sunday afternoon, and the left-hander allowed only one unearned run on four hits in eight innings as the Texas Rangers won 4-1 to avoid a three-game sweep and to snap a four-game losing streak.
Hamels finished with seven strikeouts, none after the third inning, and didn’t issue a walk for only the second start this season. He threw only 91 pitches before giving way to closer Sam Dyson, who struck out the side in his first game since July 8.
Robinson Chirinos drove in two runs, and Ian Desmond hit a home run to start the eighth inning to back Hamels.
Hitting: The first Rangers hit against John Lackey went to Prince Fielder, who lined a single to right to open the two-run second. Ryan Rua followed with a single, and Fielder scored two batters later on an Elvis Andrus single. Robinson Chirinos scored Rua with a sacrifice fly. Cole Hamels followed with a single. ... Chirinos delivered again in the fourth with a one-out double to score Rua, who had walked, but Hamels and Rougned Odor couldn’t drove home Chirinos or Nomar Mazara, who had drawn a walk following Rua and was at third. ... Ian Desmond snapped an 0-for-10 skid to open the second half with a homer run to start the eighth.
Pitching: Hamels fell two shy of the MLB record for strikeouts to start game. He got the first six, four swinging, and came within one of the single-game mark for consecutive strikeouts (Nolan Ryan). ... The Cubs, no-hit last July by Hamels, finally got him for a hit in the third. Javier Baez’s double to left drove in an unearned run two batters after an error on Adrian Beltre. ... Hamels was at 58 pitches after five innings and 71 after six before the Cubs opened the seventh with two singles. The third batter, Jason Heyward, sent a liner to first that Fielder snagged and then took to first for a double play. ... Hamels was at 91 pitches after an easy eighth, but he wasn’t allowed to try for the complete game. Sam Dyson, who hadn’t pitched in nine days, worked the ninth for his 19th save.