Rangers lefty allows seven runs in Game 1 of AL Division Series
By Alyson Footer
ARLINGTON -- Cole Hamels is the ace of a pitching staff on a team that finished with the best record in the American League, and he has a solid postseason track record that dates back to 2007, his second year in the big leagues. But none of this mattered on Thursday to the Blue Jays, who rocked the lefty for seven runs (six earned) in 3 1/3 innings in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
Game 2 is scheduled for noon CT on Friday at Globe Life Park (TBS in the U.S./Sportsnet (English) and TVA (French) in Canada).
It was an unspectacular beginning to an overall forgettable day for Hamels and the AL West champion Rangers, who fell to the Blue Jays, 10-1, at Globe Life Park. The game was close for two innings, until Toronto broke through for five runs off Hamels in the third frame.
It was an uncharacteristic October performance for the 32-year-old Hamels, and the shortest postseason outing of his career. It was also only the second time in six career playoff-opening starts that he took a loss.
"I mean, obviously, when you get your No. 1 guy out there, you don't really envision that," manager Jeff Banister said.
The third-inning damage all happened with two outs. Hamels wasn't alone in this -- afternoon shadows in the outfield and a subpar performance by his defense contributed to the unraveling -- but the left-hander declined to deflect blame.
"You really have to get outs," Hamels said. "No matter how they're taking pitches or how they're putting balls in play, I have to still be able to make pitches, no matter what. If there's guys on, if there's no guys on, it's not a matter of plays being made or not being made. I still have to make good pitches."
The pitch that Hamels threw to Troy Tulowitzki with the bases loaded, was, by all accounts, not good -- a cutter than didn't cut. The bases-clearing triple put the Blue Jays ahead, 5-0.
"You know, I thought we worked Cole really tough, because he's one of the elite pitchers in the game," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "That third inning, we made him work and got a couple of big, big hits."
"I was able to get [Tulowitzki] out earlier with a cutter more in," Hamels said. "[The triple pitch] just went down the middle. You get two outs, it's a sense of if I can get a popup, that's great.
"[Tulowitzki] was battling. I was throwing some good pitches that he was fouling off. You want to make sure someone puts something in play, but the pitch that I made, that was right down the middle. That's what they're supposed to do with pitches when you throw them down the middle."
Hamels threw 42 pitches in the third frame.
"The first two innings, he came out and was in control of all [of his pitches] -- the fastball, the cutter, the sinker and the four-seamer," Banister said. "And then it did seem to get away from him. And still, [he was] one pitch away from being out of that inning."
Hamels admitted that as the third frame progressed, he started pressing.
"You get to the heart of that lineup, that's a tough lineup," Hamels said. "You don't want to leave pitches down the middle to those guys, because obviously you get to see what type of damage they do. It's more subtle -- trying to overdo things. When you try to overdo, overpower, you throw through your pitches."
This wasn't Hamels' first bad outing against the Blue Jays. Dating back to last October, he has a 5.40 ERA over three postseason starts versus Toronto, and combined in the regular season and postseason, Hamels is winless in seven career starts against the Blue Jays.
Hamels also did not turn in a great month of September, recording a 5.42 ERA over his final five regular-season starts.
Perhaps Thursday's game was a continuation of a late-season decline, or maybe it was what Hamels chalked it up to be -- getting out of his game when the score was getting out of hand.
"The word I like to use is 'overcook,'" catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "You try to overcook sometimes, make it nastier than you have to. He just battled and grinded it out. A combination of being a tough day for him, their guy [Marco Estrada] being on, and we see the result."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.