"Cole did an excellent job," first baseman Prince Fielder said. "That's what we needed. We were struggling a little bit, so we wanted to get that first second-half win and get rolling again. It was a good win. Cole did an excellent job, and we got some big hits. It was a good game all around."
This was the first win by a Rangers starting pitcher since Hamels threw seven scoreless innings in a 7-1 victory over the Yankees on June 28. In 14 games since then, Rangers starters were 0-9 with a 7.71 ERA while averaging 4 1/2 innings per start.
"That's exactly what Cole does for us," manager Jeff Banister said. "He gives the guys energy. You could see the confidence in the dugout."
Hamels, making his first start at Wrigley Field since a no-hitter for the Phillies last year on July 25, allowed four hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. The only run was unearned, and Hamels set a Rangers record by striking out the first six batters of the game.
"He likes Wrigley, don't he?" Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "The way he started out, it looked like, 'Here we go all over again.'"
The strikeouts came because Hamels was able to throw early strikes with his fastball and cutter. That set up the changeup and curveball for swings and misses. He threw 91 pitches, and 65 were strikes. He had first-strikes on 17 of 28 hitters. That was the difference between Sunday and two previous starts when he allowed a combined 10 runs in 8 1/3 innings.
"I know it's the second half and we want to start off right," Hamels said. "I know this is go-to time, you're trying to catch up or distance yourself. As a pitcher, once you get over the 100-inning mark, it's time to make the final push. You want to go out there and make quality pitches. It's a matter of bearing down, having good focus and attacking the zone, and putting together good innings."
The only run came in the third on a two-out RBI double by Javier Baez, cutting the Rangers' lead to 2-1. Hamels responded by striking out Kris Bryant for the second time, the first of nine straight hitters retired.
The one moment of worry came in the seventh when, with the Rangers up 3-1, Willson Contreras and Addison Russell led off with singles. Jason Heyward followed with a line drive right at Fielder, and he was able to double off Russell at first.
"That was huge," Hamels said. "Sometimes you make great pitches and they get hits, and sometimes you leave one up in the zone and they hit it at somebody."