ARLINGTON -- Pirates left-hander Jonathan Niese outpitched Cole Hamels and handed him his first loss since Aug. 7, 2015, in a 9-1 victory over the Rangers on Friday night. The Pirates, with four home runs on the night, have won 10 of their last 12 games to go a season-high nine games over .500.
Hamels was 12-0 with a 2.99 ERA in his last 19 starts before allowing six runs -- five earned -- in 4 2/3 innings. This was Hamels' shortest outing in 22 starts for the Rangers and his first loss at Globe Life Park since being acquired from the Phillies on July 31 last year.
"I think not getting the results with certain pitches," Hamels said. "Sometimes you're going to leave pitches in the zone. You're hoping they're going to make the mistake. The two pitches I threw up in the middle of the zone they were able to hit out. Especially in the situation of that inning in the fifth, you've got to try and keep the ball down or get the pop up here and there.
"Sometimes that happens. You're going to make alot of pitches in games and not necessarily be good ones. It was a tough game just because the fact Niese pitches really well and we weren't able to get runners on or runners. I didn't help that cause during the fifth."
Niese allowed one run on seven hits, two walks and a strikeout over six innings. He is now 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his last three starts.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Kang goes long: In his first MLB game as a designated hitter, Kang lifted an opposite-field, three-run homer in the fifth to break the game open for the Pirates, who scored five runs off Hamels in the fifth. This season, 10 of Kang's 15 hits have gone for extra bases. Kang went 2-for-5 on Friday.
"Kang jumped all over that ball like he was looking out there, driving it into the right-field seats," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. More >
Moreland's first error costly:Mitch Moreland committed his first error of the season in the fifth inning and it was a big play in a five-run inning. After Sean Rodriguez led off with a walk, Jordy Mercer hit a sharp double-play grounder at Moreland. But his throw to second ended up in left field. Instead of the double play, the Pirates were left with runners at second and third with nobody out. Their rally took off from there.
"The biggest thing we were unable to make the play after the walk," manager Jeff Banister said.
Niese gets out unscathed: Niese scattered seven hits, including four of them over his last two innings, but in each case he worked his way out of deeper trouble to allow only one run. In the fifth, Niese allowed hits to Bobby Wilson and Jurickson Profar, putting men on the corners with one out, but Niese retired Ian Desmond and Prince Fielder on consecutive flyouts to end the inning. Then in the sixth, after Adrian Beltre led off with a towering solo homer, Niese eventually got Elvis Andrus to fly out to the warning track in left to end the inning and strand a runner.
"They are really good [but] I was able to keep them off-balance," Niese said. "I thought my sinker was really good today, I kept it in the bottom of the zone. … Other than Beltre, that hit, overall, it was pretty consistent." More >
Mazara, Desmond collide and survive: Desmond and Nomar Mazara both walked away from a frightful collision in the sixth inning. Both were chasing Kang's high fly in the right-center field gap when they collided. The ball fell in for a single. Desmond got up quickly, while Mazara appeared to be shaken. He was tended to by trainer Kevin Harmon, but stayed in the game.
"It startled him more than it hurt him," Banister said. More >
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This is the seventh time Niese and Hamels have faced each other in their careers. They did so six times between 2010-14 when Niese was with the Mets and Hamels was with the Phillies. Both pitchers have two wins against the other, while the Mets won four of the six meetings overall, including the last three.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Right-hander Juan Nicasio will be on the mound against the Rangers at 7:15 p.m. ET on Saturday at Globe Life Park. Nicasio is 1-1 with a 6.46 ERA in three starts in May.
Rangers: Right-hander Yu Darvish makes his first Major League start since Aug. 9, 2014, when he faces the Pirates at 6:15 p.m. CT on Saturday. Darvish has been sidelined while recovering from Tommy John surgery on March 17, 2015.