Rangers ace Cole Hamels laments four walks Sunday
May started Sunday for the Texas Rangers the same way the season did April 4 at Globe Life Park, with Cole Hamels on the mound.
That has proven to be a magical thing for the Rangers, who entered with victories in 14 consecutive Hamels starts. Coming off a 14-10 April and riding a four-game winning streak, there’s no one they would have rather had pitching to keep motoring into the new month.
Hamels, though, was hampered in his first start since April 20 because of a sore left groin. Twice the Rangers gave him leads, and twice he immediately surrendered them. He walked three in the fifth inning, his last.
The game went to the bullpens, and the Los Angeles Angels’ posted four scoreless innings while the Rangers’ relievers five yielded runs in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings before the offense struck for three in the ninth of a 9-6 loss.
The Rangers saw their four-game winning streak snapped, as well as their 14-game winning streak in Hamels starts, in a game that should remind them that they have room to improve in all facets of the game as they charge into May.
I don’t think anybody’s where they want to be right now. Everyone feels like they can get better. It’s important to keep an eye on today. If we try to get better every day and improve on what we did the last few games, we’ll be right where we want to be.
Rangers outfielder Ian Desmond
“We’ve got to pitch it better, we’ve got to hit it better, we’ve got to catch it better and we’ve got to run it better,” manager Jeff Banister said.
“I don’t think we should ever be satisfied with how we play and always looking to get better because this game an flip on you in a hurry. Never settle for success. You should stay hungry to continue to play better.”
Hamels said that his groin was not an issue during his start, which included a 36-pitch fifth inning as he lost the command for his two-seam fastball. The Angels scored three runs after the Rangers had scored three unearned runs in the fourth, and Hamels left having allowed four runs on seven hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
The Rangers hadn’t lost a regular-season game started by Hamels since Aug. 7, his second start following the trade from Philadelphia at the July 31 deadline.
“I just can’t walk that many guys,” Hamels said. “I have to challenge them. Even though they are a good team, you have to make them earn their bases. I just wasn’t able to get the consistency with the movement of my two-seamer. I wasn’t able to harness that and understand where to throw it.”
As the Rangers look forward to a new month, they do so without looking too far ahead. There aren’t looking to get better in one specific facet of the game, but in every facet.
The Rangers hadn’t lost a regular-season game with Cole Hamels on the mound since Aug. 7, 2015, his second start after his trade to the team. He was the losing pitcher in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.
They can do more on offense, despite their knack for the big inning. Their rotation, which had the best starters ERA in the American League last month, can clean up their walk totals.
The defense and base running can improve, too. In the fifth, a pop-up that should have been caught fell between Delino DeShields and Rougned Odor to start the Angels’ rally. In the seventh, the Rangers had three hits but didn’t score because Odor was caught trying to steal second base.
“All of it,” Ian Desmond said. “I don’t think anybody’s where they want to be right now. Everyone feels like they can get better.
“It’s important to keep an eye on today. If we try to get better every day and improve on what we did the last few games, we’ll be right where we want to be. If we play as good as we can play every day, there’s not many teams that can beat us.”
The Rangers play 16 of their 29 May games on the road, starting Monday with a seven-game road trip that opens at Toronto. While their home record is a sparkling 10-5, they are only 4-6 on the road.
Help is coming, with Yu Darvish expected to return from Tommy John surgery late in the month. He tossed two scoreless innings Sunday for Double A Frisco in his first rehab start, and could be joined by right fielder Shin-Soo Choo next week.
4 Road wins, in 10 games, this season for the Rangers, who begin seven-game road trip Monday at Toronto
The Rangers will have to make difficult decisions on who loses a rotation spot to Darvish and how to juggle their outfielders once Choo returns. Judging by April, that seems like a good problem to have.
But April is gone. It’s May, and the Rangers want to get better.
“Yeah, we have a decent record, but we’ve been kind of streaky,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “We need to be more consistent and win more series. It’s a long season, but we have some areas to improve.”
Rangers at Blue Jays
6:07 p.m. Monday, FSSW