ARLINGTON -- Rangers starter Cole Hamels had one shaky inning of control issues but was otherwise brilliant, holding the Orioles to two hits over eight innings in a 4-1 victory on Friday night.
The Rangers' victory was their 11th in their last 15 games, and they remain a half-game ahead of the Twins in the American League Wild Card race. The Orioles have lost eight of their last nine and are now 3 1/2 games behind the Rangers.
Hamels allowed two hits and walked four, including three in the third inning, while striking out 10. Orioles starter Kevin Gausman took the loss after allowing four runs in 6 2/3 innings, including home runs to Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Gimenez.
"You've got to take a pop at him early before he can get in step," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Hamels. "He doesn't even throw 50 percent fastballs anymore, but he's going to play off your aggressiveness, and when you're not swinging the bats well, it's a challenge. He's good. That's the type of people you get for what you give up and the type of commitment they made to him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gimenez hits milestone home run: Gimenez has been with the Rangers for only a month, but his home run in the fifth inning was a major milestone beyond giving the Rangers a lead. It was his fourth home run, a career high for him in one season.
Alvarez debuts: Cuba-born outfielder Dariel Alvarez wasted no time showing why there's been so much buzz about his defense, contributing to a key second-inning double play in his Major League debut. After catching Elvis Andrus' liner, Alvarez fired a strike from right field to catcher Matt Wieters, easily nabbing Adrian Beltre trying to score.
"You don't get a whole lot of nerves about something you know you do real well. He's got a lot more than that. That was, 'I got you out pretty easy here. I don't need to really air it out here.' He's got plenty of arm, and he doesn't have to overthrow it," Showalter said. "That was impressive. That's a textbook throw." More >
Hamels rallies in third: Hamels walked three batters in the third, including Chris Davis with two outs and the bases loaded to force in a run. But he got out of the inning trailing 1-0 by getting Wieters to ground out to shortstop. He then retired the side in order over the next four innings. He did not allow another baserunner until issuing a one-out walk to Manny Machado in the eighth inning.
"It was just being aggressive in the zone," Hamels said. "Challenging guys and not trying to make the perfect pitch to get swing-and-misses. That's what I wasn't doing in the third inning, being aggressive early and getting them to swing outside the zone."
Homers or nothing: Baltimore's frustrating one-dimensional offense was on full display again, as the O's only run came from a bases-loaded walk. The Orioles couldn't capitalize on Hamels' early struggles; the lefty retired 14 in a row at one point, and the Orioles were struck out 12 times.
"It's been a challenge for us most of the year and will continue to be," Showalter said of his team's high-strikeout rate. "You live with [strikeouts] if the run production is there, but it hasn't been there. That's a tough part of that."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his game-tying home run in the fourth inning, Choo has now reached base in 32 straight starts since the All-Star break. He also drove in a run in the fifth, when he batted with runners at the corners and one out. He hit a grounder to first baseman Davis and hustled down the line to avoid an inning-ending double play.
"We like to win, and that's kind of what we've been doing the last couple of years, so to have a skid like this, obviously, doesn't feel good. But we're one hit away, one pitch away, and I think that's the biggest frustrating thing." -- Gausman, on the Orioles' recent troubles
"He was still in control in the eighth inning. It was a tough decision not sending him out for the ninth. But we felt he had done what we needed to have done, we had the lead and a very capable closer who we trust and has shown up big for us. We felt it was time." -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister, on replacing Hamels with Shawn Tolleson in the ninth
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles: Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez pitches against the Rangers at 8:05 p.m. ET on Saturday in Arlington. Jimenez is 2-5 with a 6.13 ERA in his last 10 starts. He is 3-6 with a 5.14 ERA in 14 starts on the road.
Rangers: Left-hander Martin Perez opposes the Orioles at 7:05 p.m. CT on Saturday. He will be pitching on eight days' rest, as the Rangers skipped his last start to help monitor his innings. He is 1-1 with a 4.38 ERA in two starts against the Orioles.