Texas Rangers

Rangers reaction: Back to .500 and in the thick of wild card fever

The Rangers are back at .500 and back into the thick of the wild card race. They improved to 45-45 with Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Royals, one of their wild card competitors. The Rangers are two games back of the the Yankees, who currently are in the second wild card spot, a game ahead of the Twins.

1. Hamels rolling — Cole Hamels hasn’t allowed a run in his last 21 innings on the mound, the longest active streak in the American League. the last time Hamels allowed a run it was the first inning in Chicago on July 1. In his last three starts combined, he’s allowed two runs on nine hits, two walks and struck out 17. He lowered his ERA to 3.05 after going 7 2/3 scoreless Saturday night.

“I’m kind of getting comfortable, being able to feel confident that I physically feel healthy and my strength is now at a point where it needs to be, to go longer in the game,” said Hamels, who missed two months with a right oblique strain. “And just getting the feel for all my pitches. That’s always tough earlier in the season when you don’t have the feel and you’re still searching and still trying to work on all your pitches. You get yourself in certain counts where you can’t really rely on all your pitches and it’s narrowed down what you can really do, which obviously helps the opponent out.”

2. Claudio Closer Part II — Alex Claudio came in to shut the door in the ninth for the second consecutive night. After a lead-off walk by Jose Leclerc, Claudio came in to face the left-hitting Eric Hosmer. Manager Jeff Banister said the was the plan whether Leclerc walked Lorenzo Cain or not. Claudio fell behind Hosmer 3-0 before coming back to strike him out.

“I said throw the fastball in the middle,” Claudio told himself. “I know my sinker is pretty good, so throw it down the middle. That's it. I was trying to throw it on the corners. I was nibbling so I said, relax and do what you have to do.”

Claudio got Hosmer swinging atop his sinker for the strikeout and then got Salvador Perez to hit into a game-ending 1-4-3 double play.

“I know the runner [Cain] was slow and so as I grabbed it, I wanted to make sure I threw it at Odor’s chest,” he said.

He did, and the Rangers won the game and Claudio earned his third save.

3. Gallo gaining experience — Joey Gallo is hoping the experience he gained in the first half pays off the rest of the season. Not only does he know the league and the league’s pitchers better now, but he’s feeling generally more comfortable with each month in the majors. The strained tendon behind his left knee, by the way, is feeling better.

“When you start to face these teams the second and third time through I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable,” Gallo said.

That includes going deeper in counts and drawing walks. He tied a career-high with three walks in a game before the break.

“Trying to be patient. That’s the one thing I want to be good about,” he said. “I feel like I’m being patient and controlling the at-bat and if they don’t throw strikes at least take my walk. I view a walk as good as a single.”

In the first half, he said, if he got a 3-2 count against a pitcher, he’d assume a strike was coming. “Now, I’m getting to 3-2 and I assume they’re not just going to throw a fastball no matter what the score is. I’m starting to learn the league and learn myself a little bit and taking the walk when I can get it.”

4. Darvish eyes Scherzer — Yu Darvish had a great time at the All-Star Game despite not being able to pitch. He spent his time talking to fellow pitchers, soaking in anything and everything he could learn from the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Chris Archer.

“I was able to talk to a lot of guys and hear different perspectives,” said Darvish, who starts Sunday’s finale against the Royals. Of course I had a great time over there. My family was over there, too, so I had fun with my family as well.”

Scherzer especially left an impression on Darvish. Scherzer has heterochromia iridum, which, in English means he has two different colored eyes. His left eye is brown and his right eye is blue.

“That something special, not a lot of people have those kinds of eyes,” Darvish said. “They’re very unique. People remember those things so I think it’s a cool thing.”

5. Kela close — Reliever Keone Kela threw a bullpen session off a mound before Saturday’s game for the first time since going on the disabled list. Kela has been on the DL with right shoulder soreness since July 3 (retroactive to June 30). Banister said he’d like Kela to throw a couple of times off the mound before he’s activated and said it was unlikely he’d be activated this weekend. He’s likely to be available at some point during the four-game series in Baltimore next week.

Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST

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