Losers of four straight, and pretty much each of them a painful loss in one way or another, the Texas Rangers found themselves Friday facing the leader of their division and the defending world champions.
Naturally, it wasn’t even close.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa was 4-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs, and Robinson Chirinos and Jurickson Profar also homered as the Rangers beat the Houston Astros.
Yovani Gallardo scattered two hits and four walks in 5 1/3 scoreless innings. Chirinos’ blast was a two-run shot, and Profar matched Kiner-Falefa, Chirinos and Shin-Soo Choo with two RBIs. Carlos Tocci, Ronald Guzman and Willie Calhoun also drove in runs as the Rangers won for only the second time in eight games since the All-Star break.
Gallardo won both games by tossing 11 1/3 scoreless innings.
Eddie Butler, acquired earlier in the day in the Cole Hamels trade with the Chicago Cubs, issued a four-pitch walk to No. 9 hitter Tony Kemp and a single to George Springer to start the eighth, but retired the next three hitters.
And just like that, the Rangers are 1-0 with Hamels.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction, though not from an 11-2 victory.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from the Hamels trade, the one in 2015 and the one Friday.
1. Hamels departed for his new team Friday and had to go only to St. Louis to meet them.
That’s about an hourlong flight from DFW Airport, and that allowed Hamels enough time to stop by Globe Life Park for a goodbye press conference.
He did the same thing when the Philadelphia Phillies dealt him to the Rangers in 2015. It’s a rare move and a class move, and though the beat writers were out of town and most TV stations had dispatched crews to Dallas Cowboys training camp, a decent contingent showed up to hear what he had to say.
Drew Davison wrote about it here and even shot the video below.
Hamels said that he would be interested in a Rangers reunion should the Cubs not pick up the $20 million club option, which seems likely. As general manager Jon Daniels pointed out, the Cubs might decide to keep him if he becomes their next postseason hero.
Was Hamels just saying nice things? Maybe not. He has told his teammates that genuinely likes living in the Metroplex, and he understands that at this point in his career he will likely be forced to sign one-year contracts.
Hamels is OK with that, and if the price is right, so should the Rangers. They will need starters in 2019.
Here’s another thing to consider: Hamels pitched parts of four seasons with the Rangers, and for the most part was very good. It didn’t end well, as he freely admits, but the Rangers won way more games when he started than they lost when he started.
There’s a misnomer out there that he didn’t perform well in the 2015 postseason, which is just flat-out wrong. He took a no-decision in Game 2, which the Rangers won, and was up 2-1 in the seventh inning of Game 5 when the Rangers committed not one, not two, but three errors on the first three plays of the inning.
He was hit with the loss, as Sam Dyson didn’t provide any relief, but did Hamels pitch badly and lose that game? Not even close.
Plus, it was Hamels who pitched the Rangers into the postseason, including a complete-game win in Game 162 to clinch the American League West title. He was a Cy Young candidate in 2016 until falling apart in the final month.
Asked if he had any regrets about acquiring Hamels in 2015 or if he overpaid for the left-hander, Daniels very strongly said he would do the same deal again. Teams have to get in the tournament before the can win a World Series, and Hamels got them there.
“He literally pitched us into the playoffs,” Daniels said.
It’s not that hard to grasp. Acquiring Hamels was a very good deal for the Rangers.
2. Ah, but was sending Hamels to the Cubs a good deal? That one is a bit more complicated.
First of all, no one should have been expecting a mammoth haul. The Yu Darvish trade, among other recent trades for rental starters, should have been a big clue, plus Hamels’ contract situation was difficult.
Not only was he able to block a trade to 20 teams, he is making a boatload this season and has a $6 million buyout or $20 million club option for 2019. Not many teams can handle that, so the pool of clubs who could take Hamels was even smaller.
Money was always going to be part of the deal.
Then, there was Hamels’ performance the past month. Daniels said that it was a factor in the trading Hamels, but the teams that inquired did so understanding that Hamels is better than he showed and might be invigorated by a trade.
Daniels said that the Rangers considered waiting until after Hamels’ next start, which was set for Saturday and will now be made by Ariel Jurado, and considered waiting until August to trade him. Ultimately, with Hamels’ future performance uncertain and the market August trends favoring the buyer, they dealt Thursday night.
Oh, let’s not forget that just as the Rangers had to trade Darvish last year or risk losing him in free agency without any return, the Rangers pretty much had to deal Hamels.
The return was an MLB pitcher, Butler; a Class A pitcher the Rangers liked in last year’s draft with a sweet name, Rollie Lacy; and a player to be named. Butler has never lived up to the hype of being a first-round pick (46th overall) in 2012, but he has been better since leaving the high altitude in Denver and seems like a lock for the 2019 rotation.
That’s more guaranteed MLB time than Calhoun had when he came from the Los Angeles Dodgers last year in the Darvish deal. Maybe this Hamels deal is already better than that one.
3. The Rangers, though, were still contenders when they traded Darvish. The writing is on the wall this season and has been for a while.
This is a rebuild, or that’s what the players are calling it even though Daniels prefers “development” phase. Whatever.
Veterans don’t like to partake in rebuilds. They want to win now. Not all veterans have a choice in whether they get to participate in a rebuild.
The shortstop can opt out of his eight-year contract after this season and next season. The prudent financial move would be for him to stay put after A) the way free agency went last off-season and the fact that the teams that can afford him already have shortstops and B) him missing 59 games this season and only now starting to find his form at the plate.
He also loves the Metroplex, where he’s lived at least part-time since 2008, and has a chance to be the face of the franchise once Beltre retires.
But losing really stinks.
“Rebuilding is not fun,” Andrus said. “I want to win. It’s not fun going into the last month having no meaning on winning. You have to keep battling. I wish every year of my career I could make the postseason, but it’s not going to happen.”
But it seems as if Andrus has already made up his mind. When asked about life without Adrian Beltre, Andrus said he’d be OK the rest of this year, but “I’ll let him go only if he comes back next year.”
Andrus quickly back-tracked to say that he isn’t thinking about 2019. Sounds like he doesn’t have anything to think about because he’s already made up his mind on not opting out.