The same storyline that accompanied Cole Hamels to the mound 10 days ago was attached at his hip again Monday night.
The left-hander needed to have a strong start to help the Texas Rangers in their efforts to trade him before the July 31 deadline.
Plus, there was this little wrinkle: It could be the last time Hamels pitches at Globe Life Park in a Rangers uniform.
Club brass was rooting for him to be great against the Oakland A’s, not that they wouldn’t have if he wasn’t on the trading block. But he is and they were because the development-mode Rangers need young players to build their future rosters.
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They didn’t get the boost to his trade value they were seeking. That might be an understatement.
Hamels allowed seven runs, including four on a Jonathan Lucroy grand slam in a five-run second, as the A’s opened a four-game series with a 15-3 rout in which outfielders Carlos Tocci and Ryan Rua tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth innings.
After five shaky innings from Hamels, it looks more and more like the Rangers won’t get much for him ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, if they’re able to move him at all.
“It’s part of the game,” Hamels said. “It’s the nature of this game. You’ve got to deal with it if you want to play this game. It’s going to happen, and you can’t run away from it. You have to deal with it head on.
“No matter what jersey you have on and what team you’re play for, the name of the game is to go out and get good results and to win ballgames. What I’m doing right now, that’s obviously not the case, but I know I’m capable of doing it.”
Scouts from, among others, the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants were in attendance, though not necessarily all to see Hamels.
Here’s what they and everyone saw as Hamels’ second unraveled over 38 pitches: Walk, flyout, infield single, single, Lucroy grand slam, walk, single, lineout, Khris Davis RBI double, grounder to second.
“I was kind of fighting myself,” Hamels said. “Just the mechanics I was going in there with just wasn’t usually what I’m used to. I was really fighting my stride and kind of opening up and exposing the ball.”
Steven Piscotty got Hamels for a two-run shot in the fifth, the 23rd homer surrendered by Hamels this season in 114 1/3 innings.
It was the fourth time in his past five starts that he failed to pitch more than five innings and his fifth straight start with at least four runs allowed.
He’s issued seven in three of those starts, lifting his ERA from 3.41 to 4.72.
Even if Hamels recaptures the form he had prior to June 25, the Rangers would still have difficulty trading him. His contract comes with a $20 million club option for 2019 or a $6 million buyout on top of the remainder of his $22.5 million salary this season.
The Rangers also have to navigate around his extensive no-trade list. Only nine teams aren’t on the list — the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals.
Half of those teams reportedly have had some level of interest in Hamels, who despite his recent struggles has a solid postseason resume. But a contender can’t just stash him away until October.
Playoff hopefuls acquire players for production and durability. Usually, 1 of 2 isn’t bad.
The Rangers might be forced to pin their hopes on Hamels rebounding this weekend at Houston or that a contender will be desperate enough for a starter to pull a deal. Or they might have to wait until August, when players must clear revocable waivers to be traded without restrictions, to find a deal for him.
Their options don’t appear to be very attractive after Hamels’ latest subpar start Monday.