Last season, the lockers of Cole Hamels and Derek Holland shared a corner of the Rangers clubhouse, behind a column and partially obscured from view of the rest of the clubhouse. Perhaps the Rangers wanted Holland to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the former World Series MVP. If Holland didn’t learn enough from his time in the clubhouse cove, perhaps Hamels had one more lesson to teach today, as the Rangers emerged victorious by a 10-4 score Holland and his new team: the White Sox.
Before the ball even landed in the left-field seats, Cole Hamels put his left hand on his hip and began walking towards home plate to get another. After a one-out Melky Cabrera double off the wall, Jose Abreu was now circling the bases, having hit his second home run in as many days. Hamels hit the next batter, Todd Frazier, with a pitch.
Rangers fans groaned. After all, this was Hamels’ second start after missing roughly two months with an oblique injury, and the first one hadn’t gone so well. But after that pitch, something remarkable happened:
Cole Hamels retired the next 19 batters he faced.
The only reason he had to come out after 6⅔ innings, Jeff Banister would later reveal, was because the coaching and training staff had set an upper limit of 95 pitches for Hamels as he continues to build endurance. He had thrown 96 (63 of them for strikes).
Meanwhile, between the Abreu blast and the Hamels departure, the Rangers offense pestered their old teammate Holland and continued last night’s torrential deluge of runs. Though they would manage just one run in their first bases-loaded situation, the game really started rolling in the fifth inning, after a Jonathan Lucroy walk. With Lucroy running, Delino DeShields hit a double to the gap in right-center to tie the game. Elvis Andrus then untied it with his 11th home run of the season, a fly ball that just barely evaded Cabrera’s glove at the left field wall. It was 4-2.
With one out in the sixth, Holland was unable to get to first in time to cover the base, and Rougned Odor’s speed led to an infield single that would send Holland to the showers. Three pitches (and three Chris Beck pickoff attempts) later, Odor would find himself jogging around the bases ahead of Mike Napoli, whose 15th home run of the year made it 6-2.
But when Hamels gave way to Alex Claudio in the 7th, that old familiar dread began to creep in, as Alex Claudio walked the first two batters he faced, then allowed a 2-run double to pinch-hitting Kevan Smith. It was now 6-4, but in the top of the eighth, the Rangers offense would mash down hard on the gas pedal and put the game out of reach.
Let’s flash back to last night for a moment, shall we?
Perhaps lost in the late-inning meltdown of the Rangers 8-7 loss less than 24 hours previous was this: Rougned Odor had come to the plate five times and seen a total of twelve pitches. Sure, one of them was a 2-run home run, but another was a double play to end a scoreless inning––one that had begun with the bases loaded and no outs.
Today, dropped one slot in the batting order, Odor started his day with a six-pitch walk. In his second at-bat, he hit the tenth pitch up the middle at 103mph and reached first base on what was ruled an error. This third at-bat lasted just two pitches, but resulted in the infield single.
Okay, we’re all caught up. In the eighth inning, Odor led off the inning with four-pitch home run (And while he struck out in the ninth inning, it required seven Juan Minaya pitches to do so. In total, that’s 29 pitches seen on the day.)
After Odor’s shot, Lucroy doubled, Chirinos was hit by a pitch, and Andrus walked. The bases were loaded. Again. With two outs. Again.
But this time, Nomar Mazara (and Melky Cabrera) ensured that there would be no save needed today. Mazara’s hard-hit-but-routine single bounced on the left field grass and–inexplicably–Cabrera had run nearly past it. The ball, playing it cool and not even pausing to raise an eyebrow at Cabrera, bounced to the wall and three runs scored. Now it was 10-4. That’ll do.
Alex Claudio pitched a scoreless eighth and a 1-2-3 ninth.
The White Sox are not a good team. This is not a signature victory. But it’s a win, and that’s what you’re supposed to do against bad teams. More importantly, Cole Hamels looked a lot more like Cole Hamels, and Rougned Odor looked a lot more like Shin-Soo Choo.
Texas and Chicago will play the deciding game of the three-game series tomorrow at 1:10pm as Tyson Ross (who currently inhabits Holland’s old locker in the cove) faces Jose Quintana.
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