DETROIT -- With the Rangers appearing destined for a stay at the bottom of the AL West, they'll soon be making decisions about which players might bring a good return on the trade market. Veteran left-hander Cole Hamels is becoming a frequent subject of trade speculation, but an historically bad start in a 7-2 loss Saturday against the Tigers at Comerica Park is complicating things for an otherwise valuable player.
Hamels (4-8) lasted only 2/3 of an inning, as the Tigers sent 11 hitters to the plate and scored seven runs. It matched the shortest start of Hamels' 13-year career, and seven runs tied his most allowed this season -- though only three were earned on this day. Saturday marked the second straight dicey start for the 2008 World Series MVP, after giving up seven runs over five innings on July 1 against the White Sox.
"Very uncharacteristic," manager Jeff Banister said. "Cole came out, and I thought he was really fresh. The velocity was up there at the highest we've seen all year long. He seemed to be really strong."
After striking out leadoff hitter Michael Mahtook, five consecutive batters reached safely against Hamels. Nicholas Castellanos hit a 411-foot home run to spark the outburst. The Tigers got another run across with two singles and two walks, before Hamels struck out James McCann for the second out.
Hamels appeared to be on his way out of the jam twice. With the bases loaded, Hamels got his glove on a liner by Jose Iglesias, but there was no play to be made. JaCoby Jones came up next and hit a line drive that Delino DeShields misplayed and could only knock down. The bases cleared, and Jones was on second. DeShields was charged with an error and said after the game the ball knuckled off the bat. Mahtook then knocked a double to left-center field to score Jones.
"I trust Cole," Banister said. "Pitchers go through certain situations like this. He's been so good in every outing he's had with those situations, to be able to get through that time of an inning."
Trade rumors are only going to intensify as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears. The Rangers are 39-51 now. They're 20 1/2 games behind the Astros in the division and 17 games back of the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. Hamels has a $20 million club option next season.
It's easy to think about what the perception of Hamels might be if DeShields had made that catch to end the inning -- or if Hamels had been able to secure the previous ball to make an out. And at 41 pitches, Banister wasn't comfortable leaving Hamels in the game to avenge anything.
"It was a pitch-count situation for me," Banister said. "Forty-plus pitches in any one inning, we're not going to put even our most veteran guy out there in that situation. Sometimes you go ahead and lift him up and take out so he's able to fight another day, as opposed to continuing a situation where you put a guy at risk."
The Rangers' bats offered little help for a second straight game. Tigers starter Mike Fiers churned through six innings, giving up one run on five hits and struck out six. The Rangers did get two doubles from Shin-Soo Choo, whose 46-game on-base streak tied a franchise record, and Rougned Odor added two hits himself, including his fifth homer of the season in the sixth inning.
Matt Moore's 4 1/3 scoreless innings marked the longest relief appearance of his career. Moore gave up two hits and struck out six. Said Banister: "I thought he did a great job. He did allow four walks and the hit batter, but he was able to maneuver it around and give us some length."
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Leadoff hitter Choo swung at the first pitch of the game and hit it 405 feet to right-center field for a double, extending his on-base streak to 46 games. That ties him with Julio Franco for the franchise record.
The Rangers wrap up their four-game stay in Detroit with a 12:10 p.m. CT first pitch against the Tigers on Sunday at Comerica Park. Austin Bibens-Dirkx (1-2, 4.40 ERA) will get the nod for Texas. Bibens-Dirkx was worked for five runs in his last start against the Astros. He'll be going against Michael Fulmer (3-7, 4.22 ERA), who last allowed three runs over six innings against the Cubs.