Gil LeBreton

Hamels receives introduction to Rangers’ smelly bullpen

Tanner Scheppers walks by Cole Hamels in the dugout after Scheppers was taken out of Saturday’s game having surrendered a three-run lead in the eighth inning.
Tanner Scheppers walks by Cole Hamels in the dugout after Scheppers was taken out of Saturday’s game having surrendered a three-run lead in the eighth inning. Star-Telegram

Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Cole Hamels.

Cole Hamels, meet the Texas Rangers bullpen.

The new guy on the mound was introduced to the old plague on the 2015 season Saturday night. The 41,114 in attendance gave the newly acquired Hamels a standing ovation.

Then, with just four outs to go and a three-run lead, reliever Tanner Scheppers dropped a familiar stink bomb on the whole occasion, opening the door to a 9-7 San Francisco Giants victory.

As pitching debuts in a Texas uniform go, Hamels’ seven-plus innings were mostly solid, if not dominating. At the least, he out-performed Cliff Lee’s July 10, 2010, debut — a nine-hit, six-run, three-homers-allowed complete-game loss to the Orioles.

Lefty Hamels had only one worrisome inning, the third, in which he allowed a home run to UT ex Brandon Belt and doubles to Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik. A home run by Buster Posey also began the seventh.

But leading 7-4 with two outs in the eighth inning, Hamels gave up another double to second baseman Panik. And for some reason, Rangers manager Jeff Banister decided that, at that point, Hamels’ 97 pitches were enough.

Maybe he thought Hamels was tiring, an odd assessment considering the ex-Phillie had not pitched in seven days.

Maybe he wanted Hamels to savor the serenade of the fans’ standing ovation on his walk from the mound. The fans did salute the new left-hander, and Hamels responded with a brief, polite wave.

Or maybe Banister just thought Scheppers was the right man to close out the top of the eighth inning.

But Scheppers showed the folly of that choice by giving up back-to-back doubles and a run-scoring single by Hunter Pence.

Three batters, three hits allowed, and the score was tied 7-all.

Awful.

If you’ve been paying attention, though, you’ve seen this act before. The Rangers began the night with the worst bullpen in baseball, a 4.67 earned run average. Relievers have allowed 19 of their past 43 (41.9 percent) inherited runners to score. The Texas bullpen has allowed runs in 18 of the team’s past 23 games.

Scheppers remains wildly — and maddingly — inconsistent. The club likes to rave about Tanner’s “great arm” but over the past two seasons he has a 6.98 ERA in 58 innings pitched.

He hasn’t been the pitcher the team thinks he is for some time. Yet, he remains the Rangers’ primary set-up guy, their eighth-inning man.

Yikes.

Pushed into extra innings, the bullpen caved twice more Saturday, giving up solo homers to Pence and Belt in the 11th. And there went the ballgame.

Cole Hamels, say hello to your new bullpen.

Hamels, at least, fared better than his last outing against the world champion Giants, a three-inning, 12-hit, nine-run pounding July 10.

The Giants are the Giants. Seven in San Francisco’s starting lineup Saturday began the night batting .268 or higher.

Still, the Rangers gave Hamels a 7-4 lead to take into the eighth. He retired the first two batters on a grounder and a strikeout. Panik’s double followed, but it hardly seemed like cause for alarm at the time.

Banister, granted, has had to make the most of a wildly erratic bullpen. But that should have been all the more reason not to pull Hamels, who regularly exceeds 100 pitches in his starts.

The decision cost the Rangers what would have been a fourth consecutive victory over two contending teams, the Yankees and the defending world champs.

It cost the Rangers all the momentum that had built through the trade deadline week.

It cost Hamels a night that, if nothing else, he might have pleasantly remembered.

Hello, Cole Hamels.

Please ignore the smell.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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