HOUSTON -- Cole Hamels said after his last start that he needed to be better, and he vowed to fix the problem before his next start. He did so against formidable opposition.Locked in a taut pitching duel with Astros right-hander Justin Verlander, Hamels and three Rangers relievers combined on a
HOUSTON -- Cole Hamels said after his last start that he needed to be better, and he vowed to fix the problem before his next start. He did so against formidable opposition.
Locked in a taut pitching duel with Astros right-hander Justin Verlander, Hamels and three Rangers relievers combined on a one-hitter in a 1-0 victory over the Astros on Friday night at Minute Maid Mark. In doing so, Hamels earned his first victory since April 3.
"You could tell when he left the dugout, he had an edge," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He had a look in his face. He's a big-time pitcher. Two big-time pitchers. If you like pitching, this was the night. Tremendous job by both pitchers."
Hamels was 0-3 with a 4.11 ERA in his last six starts, and the Rangers had won just one of his eight starts on the season. Hamels made it clear after the Rangers' loss to the Red Sox on Saturday that was unacceptable.
"As the season gets kind of really on a roll, it's all about showing up and actually playing and putting up the type of results that I expect and I think everyone else expects," Hamels said. "Verlander's pitched well his whole career. You just go out there and try to plug away yourself, not really looking too much at the guy you're facing. I've got good hitters that I have to get out no matter what Verlander does."
Jake Diekman, Jose Leclerc and Keone Kela -- who earned his eighth save -- followed Hamels with a scoreless inning each to finish off the Rangers' first one-hitter since Yu Darvish and Joe Nathan combined for a 2-1 victory over the Astros on Aug. 12, 2013. The last time the Rangers won a 1-0 game while their pitchers allowed just one hit was April 26, 1990, in Nolan Ryan's complete-game victory over the White Sox.
Hamels didn't get a complete game, but he earned this win by allowing just one hit and three walks with five strikeouts. He threw 100 pitches, 62 of them for strikes. Banister said Hamels showed his best curveball all season on Friday night.
"All his secondary pitches were plus," Banister said. "Enough fastball and enough velocity on the fastball. He was able to move his fastball around and get them in a swing mode and have enough secondary stuff to get them off balance."
The Astros' only hit was a ground-ball single through the left side by Evan Gattis leading off the fifth.
"[The Astros] have a good team," Hamels said. "They have a good plan of attack, and I have to counter. I've got to stay one step ahead."
The Rangers have now faced Verlander three times this season and have won two of those games despite scoring just two runs in 20 innings off him. Both wins have come at Minute Maid Park, including a 3-1 victory on April 15 in which Verlander allowed one run in eight innings and got a no-decision.
Verlander took a two-hit shutout into the seventh before Nomar Mazara led off with a double to right. Adrian Beltre then walked on four pitches. Joey Gallo worked his count to 2-2, then laid off two pitches in the dirt for a walk to load the bases.
"When I faced Adrian with nobody out and a man on second, I pitched him a little bit differently trying to set up a double play with a guy behind him in Gallo who swings and misses a lot," Verlander said. "Did it work out? No. I ended up walking Gallo."
Reliever Chris Devenski took over to face Jurickson Profar, who fell behind 0-2 before hitting a line-drive sacrifice fly to left to bring home Mazara.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Diekman retired the Astros in order in the seventh, but walked Josh Reddick to start the bottom of the eighth. Banister then brought in Leclerc to face the top of the Astros' lineup. He struck out Jake Marisnick, who had entered the game in the top of the fourth after George Springer left with a left elbow contusion. Jose Altuve then flied out to deep center and Reddick tagged up, getting to second on the play. With the tying run in scoring position, Leclerc got Carlos Correa to hit a weak popup down the right-field line, and first baseman Ronald Guzman made a terrific, twisting, over-the-shoulder catch for the third out.
"I didn't know how far back Nomar was playing, and I didn't know if [second baseman Rougned Odor] was going to get there," Guzman said. "I said, 'I have to make this catch. I have to get there.' I didn't take my eye off it. I didn't want it to hit me in the face."
Gallo led off the Rangers' sixth with a line drive into the right-center gap, and Astros right fielder Reddick made a terrific diving catch. According to Statcast™, the ball had an 83 percent hit probability. Gallo's line drive had an exit velocity of 115.7 miles per hour, which is the second-hardest-hit ball off Verlander since 2015. The only ball hit harder was a home run by Springer off him on April 16, 2016. Gallo's liner also was the second-hardest-hit ball for an out in the Majors this season that wasn't a ground ball.
HE SAID IT
"Things haven't been going too well for me, and I was just trying to have a good team at-bat. He is not going to groove it in there for me, I had to earn it." -- Gallo, on his seventh-inning walk that Banister said was the key to the rally
Right-hander Doug Fister pitches against the Astros at 6:10 p.m. CT on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. Fister's only win this season was against the Astros on March 30, when he held them to one run in five innings. He is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA in four career starts against the Astros and is 0-1 with a 4.08 ERA in three starts since returning from the disabled list. Charlie Morton will start for the Astros.
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.