BALTIMORE -- One start after his shortest outing since 2010, Cole Hamels fulfilled the traditional starter's obligation of giving his team a chance to win.
Yet even after the Rangers obliged by holding on for a 5-4 victory to open a three-game series against the Orioles on Friday night at Camden Yards, Hamels (5-8) was far from satisfied.
The Rangers' ace allowed four runs over 6 1/3 innings, exiting with the bases loaded after throwing only 81 pitches.
Those inherited runners would eventually score on Caleb Joseph's double off Jose Leclerc. And while Hamels was still much improved from his previous outing -- a shellacking in Detroit in which he failed to escape the first inning -- he remained annoyed by his own performance.
"You give up as many runs as I do in a month, nothing is going to be satisfactory," said Hamels, who has seen his ERA rise nearly a full run to 4.36 over his last four starts.
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Hamels had been dominant early, facing the minimum batters over four innings, and in usual circumstances he might have been given a longer rope in the seventh. But he suggested abbreviated outings in his last two starts had lowered his pitch limit on Friday.
"If you don't want to put yourself in that situation, then you've got to be able to finish games earlier in the week and allow yourself to have a pitch count that you can do so," Hamels said. "It's all my fault for what the situation is, and what the outcome is that happened."
Fortunately for Hamels, Ryan Rua had connected for his first career pinch-hit home run -- a three-run shot off Tanner Scott during a four-run top of the seventh -- before his exit.
Joey Gallo added his team-leading 22nd homer off Alex Cobb (2-12) in the fifth and drew a walk off Scott to set the table for Rua. Nomar Mazara doubled in Elvis Andrus from first to complete the Rangers' seventh-inning scoring.
"To get a big one in that situation was huge for us," said Rangers manager Jeff Banister. "However, I really think that the at-bat prior, Gallo drawing a walk there to allow Rua to come up with two runners on, was a huge at-bat. And then the next run proved to be the crucial run for us."
Shin-Soo Choo singled in the third to extend his club-record on-base streak to 49 games as the Rangers picked up their third win in the first of eight games of a 10-game road trip.
Jake Diekman induced Chris Davis into a bases-loaded popout to end the eighth. Keone Kela worked the ninth for his 23rd save in as many opportunities, despite having not pitched in five days.
"I felt naked," Kela said. "Whenever I don't throw for a couple of days, I always feel a little bit jittery, just because I haven't been out there."
Coming in to face the left-handed Scott, Rua had not so much as a hit in 18 previous career pinch-hit at-bats. But he clobbered a 1-0 fastball down and in, sending it into the seats in left.
Scott struck out Choo next, but then walked Andrus, who then raced around the bags and slid head first to beat Baltimore's relay after Mazara's opposite-field drive fell in.
Hamels' 81 pitches were his fewest thrown in an outing of six or more innings since Aug. 29, 2011, when he threw just 76 pitches for the Phillies over six innings in a 3-2 win at the Reds. It also marks his third consecutive outing throwing fewer than 90 pitches, the first time he's thrown that little in three straight outings in the same season since '09.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Manny Machado, Schoop and Davis turned Adrian Beltre's sixth-inning grounder into a 4-6-3 double play that defied belief. How much so? Well, Banister ended up challenging both ends of the play, to see whether Machado kept his foot on second base long enough, and if his throw beat Beltre to the bag. Both calls on the field were confirmed.
Rangers lefty Martin Perez (2-3) makes his first start since late April on Saturday after discomfort in his surgically repaired non-throwing elbow forced him to the disabled list. After struggling early, Perez may be looking to quickly make a dent in his 9.67 ERA, especially with the Rangers holding a $7.5 million contract option at the end of the season. Right-hander Yefry Ramirez (0-3, 3.93) goes for Baltimore in a 6:15 p.m. CT start at Camden Yards.