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 with the Rangers entering play Wednesday only one game behind the Astros for the lead in the American League West.
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.
Doing so would bump Hamels from his scheduled start Sunday and into the opener against the 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.”
Chi Chi Gonzalez is 0-5 with a 5.80 ERA in his past seven starts for the Rangers.
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.”