Left-hander pitches into eighth inning before bullpen blows lead
By Cody Stavenhagen
ARLINGTON -- The Cole Hamels era in Texas began Saturday with high expectations, plenty of publicity and even some history on the line. Could he immediately prove to be the Rangers' saving grace? Could he become only the second pitcher in Major League history to throw back-to-back no-hitters?
Well, not exactly. In a 9-7 loss against the Giants, Hamels delivered a workman-like 7 2/3 innings, allowing five earned runs and striking out six. He was efficient, and he was good. He left the game in line for the win before the Rangers' bullpen blew the lead.
The one thing he wasn't was great, but in reality, consistent innings are a better reflection of Hamels than no-hitters and dominating performances.
"Given everything involved -- coming off the no-hitter, the volume of pitches he threw in the no-hitter, everything swirling around the trade and the travel in getting here, really been here for about a day and some change -- I really felt like he threw the ball well," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
Hamels' start had the makings of something special for all of two innings. He didn't allow a hit through two quick frames, but in the third, Brandon Belt hit a home run to center field, ending opposing batters' 0-for-35 streak against Hamels.
San Francisco went on to strike for three runs in the inning, but Hamels -- like the savvy pitcher he is -- settled down and got through the next three innings with relative ease.
"Got myself into a little trouble, didn't slow down the game in that third inning," Hamels said. "Those guys were jumping all over pitches early. Certain types of situations, you have to be able to slow it down and be a little smarter."
Buster Posey homered off Hamels to lead off the seventh, but Hamels kept a low pitch count and went out for the eighth. He got pulled after allowing a two-out double to Joe Panik, and things went downhill for the Rangers from there. The Giants tied the game facing reliever Tanner Scheppers and went on to win in the 11th inning.
Hamels said he didn't wear down and wanted to stay in the game, but he had no ill feelings toward the decision.
"Understand the situation, I respect the decision and understand it and definitely would do the same thing if it ever arises again," Hamels said.
He left to a standing ovation from the Rangers crowd after throwing 97 pitches. The game didn't end how he or the fans would have liked, but all things considered, it was a good cap to a long week in the life of Cole Hamels.
"It's mind-blowing," Hamels said. "... You obviously want to go out there and throw a no-hitter, but I'm out there trying to do what I can. Getting that sort of ovation from the fans, it's hard to describe because it's the ultimate excitement. It definitely humbles you in a sense. You just have to really appreciate that they enjoyed what I was able to do."
Cody Stavenhagen is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.