Hamels changes pace in complete-game win

Hamels changes pace in complete-game win

MINNEAPOLIS -- Cole Hamels is back to being the undisputed ace of the Rangers' pitching staff, and he pitched like one with a complete game in a 4-1 victory over the Twins on Saturday night.

Hamels went the distance for only the second time in 57 starts for the Rangers since being acquired on July 31, 2015 from the Phillies. The other was on Oct. 4, 2015 in the final game of the season, when Hamels beat the Angels, 9-2, to clinch the American League West title.

Hamels re-assumed the mantle of No. 1 starter after Yu Darvish was traded to the Dodgers on Monday and he allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out five. The only run was unearned.

"I never really felt that responsibility here," Hamels said. "Everybody here tries ... to be great. It's something you just try to go out there and try to win. A lot guys on this staff, that's the game plan. It's all about getting a rhythm and if I am able to start that rhythm, so much the better.

"But there are a lot of talented guys on this pitching staff who have ace-caliber stuff. It's a matter of waking everybody back up."

Hamels had allowed 15 runs over 17 1/3 innings in his last three starts before throwing only the Rangers second complete game of the season. He needed just 96 pitches, the fewest by a Rangers pitcher in a nine-inning complete game since Derek Holland threw 92 against the Yankees on June 27, 2013.

Hamels credited it to the work he has done with his changeup lately. That was once his best pitch and he got away from it the last couple years. The changeup was on Saturday night.

"We had a lot of trouble with his changeup tonight," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I'm not sure how many outs he recorded on that pitch, but it seemed like a ton. I looked up there and for the majority of the innings, he was under 10 pitches."

That was the plan.

"When you are able to throw that type of pitch and also establish your fastball, it's nice," Hamels said. "They were swinging the bats early, and that right there sets the tone for getting early outs and keeping the defense awake. If you are able to do it [with the changeup], 90-92 miles per hour looks a lot harder. It's nice to throw the changeup for strike and get soft contact or swings and misses."

Hamels was so dominant that manager Jeff Banister didn't have a reliever warming until the ninth inning. He had left-hander Alex Claudio and right-hander Jose Leclerc up that inning, but never gave a change consideration.

"It was Cole's game," Banister said. "It looked like he was just as strong in the eighth or ninth inning as he was at any point in the game. I was going to be patient. It felt like he was our best option."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.