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Hamels sharp as Rangers roll past Royals

Left-hander logs 7 strong frames for his first win since May 22
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

KANSAS CITY -- The Rangers won their fourth straight game with a 4-1 victory over the Royals on Tuesday night, but that's hardly going to change Cole Hamels' situation at this point of the season.

This performance may even add to the intrigue unless this winning streak -- the longest of the season -- is only the beginning of something bigger for the Rangers. Otherwise, every time Hamels goes to the mound this summer, his outing is going to be measured in how it might impact any trade possibilities before July 31.

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KANSAS CITY -- The Rangers won their fourth straight game with a 4-1 victory over the Royals on Tuesday night, but that's hardly going to change Cole Hamels' situation at this point of the season.

This performance may even add to the intrigue unless this winning streak -- the longest of the season -- is only the beginning of something bigger for the Rangers. Otherwise, every time Hamels goes to the mound this summer, his outing is going to be measured in how it might impact any trade possibilities before July 31.

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That's the way it is on a last-place team clearly looking beyond this season and Hamels' work on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium reinforced the perception that he may be the Rangers' best trade chip. The Royals have their own issues and Hamels took advantage of it, holding them to one unearned run on four hits in seven innings.

"It's just a game and I get to pitch every 5-6 days, and I have to put up numbers no matter what," Hamels said. "It doesn't really matter what is said at the end of the day, the hearsay, the projections, predictions. It's me going out and trying to help my team win a ballgame. To play against an opponent and try to beat them."

Hamels walked three and struck out seven, finishing at 108 pitches and getting his first win since May 22. He is 4-6 with a 3.41 ERA after 15 starts, which probably won't put him on anybody's All-Star team, but the won-loss record might be better if he wasn't one of two pitchers in the American League getting fewer than three runs per nine innings of offensive support.

Video: TEX@KC: DeShields opens scoring with a 2-run double

The Rangers were able to handle that part against Royals starter Jason Hammel. Delino DeShields opened the scoring with a two-run double in the second, while Nomar Mazara and Isiah Kiner-Falefa both had three hits on the night and were instrumental in producing a 4-0 lead after three innings.

Video: TEX@KC: Kiner-Falefa rips RBI double in the 3rd

Hamels struggled with the humidity in the first inning and walked two, but he settled in quickly after that. He faced 27 hitters and threw 20 first-pitch strikes. He is 3-3 with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in his past 10 starts while holding opponents to a .206 batting average.

"Sharp fastball, very fresh, and we talked about getting the [sinker] into the mix," manager Jeff Banister said. "The changeup was big and the combination of curve and slider played big for him. But more than anything it was the 20 first-pitch strikes. When Cole is throwing first-pitch strikes, he is pretty tough to beat."

That would certainly have appeal to other clubs and the trade market may be starting to move. The Nationals acquired reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Royals on Monday for three Minor Leaguers and the Yankees are openly canvassing other clubs for available starting pitching. The Mariners and others are likely doing the same. Hamels would likely be an attractive option although that doesn't yet take into consideration his $22.5 million salary, a no-trade clause and a $20 million option for next season with a $6 million buyout.

"Whatever happens, happens," Hamels said. "It's not up to me. That's the philosophy I have, go out there and try to win no matter team it's on or however old I am. It's about going out there and compete at the highest level. That's kind of what I'm going to do, and when I'm able to do that, everything else will take care of itself."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Mazara led off the Rangers' two-run third inning with a line-drive single to center and the exit velocity was 110 miles per hour, according to Statcast™. Mazara had three singles in his first three at-bats and they all had an exit velocity of over 100. Mazara missed games on Friday and Saturday with a sore left wrist, but he is 8-for-14 in his past three games.

"Today was one of the best days I've felt," Mazara said. "It's getting better. I have been taking stuff for it and it's feeling good."

Kiner-Falefa was not supposed to start on Tuesday, but he was added to the lineup when the Rangers decided not to play Rougned Odor. Kiner-Falefa was 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles. He had an RBI double inside the third-base line in the third inning.

Video: TEX@KC: Kiner-Falefa on the win, 3 hits at plate

SOUND SMART
Shin-Soo Choo was just 1-for-5 on Tuesday, but he has extended his on-base streak to 33 games. It is the longest by a Rangers since Mark Teixeira reached in 36 straight back in 2006.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
DeShields had another four-star catch on Tuesday, according to Statcast™. With two out and a runner on second in the fifth, DeShields raced to the warning track in deep left-center to catch Whit Merrifield's long drive. The play had only a 29 percent catch probability, but DeShields did so covering 111 feet in 5.4 seconds.

Video: TEX@KC: DeShields makes running catch to end the 5th

HE SAID IT
"He mixes up really well. I was looking at him before the game actually, and his percentages of his pitches in counts are almost identical. There's no tendencies to him, he mixes everything. He was a little erratic at times, but when he's in the zone, he hides the ball well and his cutter's good, his curveball's good, his changeup's good." -- Merrifield, on Hamels

UP NEXT
Rangers right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx was called up from Triple-A Round Rock to start against the Royals at 7:15 p.m. CT on Wednesday in the series finale at Kauffman Stadium. Bibens-Dirkx is 0-1 with a 6.55 ERA in two starts with the Rangers and 2-3 with a 4.47 ERA in 11 starts at Round Rock. Kiner-Falefa is expected to make his first start at catcher. Righty Jakob Junis is scheduled to start for the Royals.

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.

Texas Rangers, Delino DeShields, Cole Hamels, Isiah Kiner-Falefa