“I’m not to the place where I feel comfortable yet,” Cole Hamels said after the game. Or at least that’s the best that the onlookers could piece together after he had left. “I was distracted by the mustache,” one admitted, then another. “Me too,” a voice chimed in from the heavens. “Us too,” came a chant from behind the door of the Angels clubhouse.
We consulted our recorders. “Don’t look at us,” they said. “Did you see that mustache?” “Yes, yes, we all saw it. It was all we saw. Did anyone get any video?” One man nodded that he had. We huddled around it, reporters needing quotes like hunters need a flame to stay warm. When it had finished playing, we all nodded and pretended to have heard the quotes. But one by one, slowly, we met eyes. “You only saw the mustache again, didn’t you,” the youngest and most honest among us said, unaware that everyone already knew, and we were masquerading our shame in silence.
“Perhaps we should just tell the people about the rest of the game,” one suggested.
“Yes, that’s a fine idea,” the eldest said dryly, allowing a pause for hope to take hold before ripping it back out with a hissed “...you RUBE! What good is a game story unless the players talk about their performance!!”
“Very well, gentlemen. Lets go back in there and talk to Adrian Beltre. He’s an honest man with kind eyes, and he would never beguile us with such trickery and buffoonery as this wizard (or he may be a charlatan, we have no way of ever knowing again), this-- what’s his name again?”
“Camel.” said one man in a top hat, as the herd of reporters spread out to hunt down the Captain. “I’m almost certain he said his name was Camel.” By now he was raising his voice to be heard. “Shhh!” we all hissed. “Pipe down! If Beltre hears you coming, he will certainly leave! He’s very fast!”
The pack encircled the wizened old veteran, and he let out a tiny gasp when he turned around. One intrepid reporter removed a cigar from his mouth and pushed forth an old-timey microphone, speaking in the parlance of all sports reporters (a trans-atlantic accent and a 1920s vocabulary). “Say there, champ! Did you know that you surpassed 5,000 total bases tonight? Talk about it, why don’t ya?”
“I’m seeing the ball okay. It’s a work in progress,” Beltre said, warily. “Obviously I could be better. I’m surprised I’m able to catch those guys. I’m glad it happened obviously. It means that I’ve been playing for a long time. That’s it.”
And what of the hurler, eh? The southpaw?
“Unbelievable. That ‘stache was working today. He was throwing strikes, in and out, keeping pretty good hitters off balance. It’s the Cole we came to know the last couple of years here. It seems like he’s getting his stuff back.”
“COLE!” the mistaken reporter whispered, slapping his forehead. “I knew it wasn’t Camel!”
“Cole”, “Camel”, “Wizard”, “Charlatan”…by whatever nomenclature you choose for this mysterious man, there is one thing that cannot be denied: he held the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at bay for 7⅔ innings tonight, striking out six, walking one, and allowing just three hits. Of the four total baserunners, three of them were retired on double plays.
Meanwhile, the offense took care of business early, scoring three runs in the first inning and five more in the second, including back-to-back home runs from Adrian Beltre (who did it from a knee) and Rougned Odor (who did it–for the second game in a row–wearing Beltre’s batting gloves). Nomar Mazara added a two-run blast in the sixth inning, and once Hamels left, Jeremy Jeffress (one batter) and Jason Grilli (one inning) combined to keep the grand total of Angels plate appearances to 28: just one over the minimum.
It was a grand win, one that made the Rangers look a lot like the team we expected to see out of Spring Training. If you’d like to know what Hamels himself had to say about it, you’re free to watch below, but I’ll warn you: when it’s over, you’re going to blink three times, try to remember the words, and realize… “UGH i was just watching the mustache again.”
Don’t bother watching it again, the result will be the same every time.