Blue Jays sink Rangers with two first-inning homers against Cole Hamels

Even when Cole Hamels was racking up strikeouts in his second start last week, something was off-kilter.

His pitch count was ballooning and he was forced to leave after five innings (and 94 pitches). He earned the win after departing with a 4-1 lead but the short start once again put the Rangers‘ bullpen in a tough spot.

In Sunday‘s 7-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, Hamels was rocked for seven runs (five earned) on eights hits and had to leave after 5 1/3. The Jays jumped on him quickly with four runs in the first, including a homer to deep left field by Steve Pearce on Hamels‘ first pitch of the game, and a three-run homer by Kendrys Morales.

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He regrouped and allowed just one more earned run over the next 4 1/3 innings but the damage had been done.

“It‘s just a matter of if I could take one pitch back, I definitely would take back that pitch to Morales,” Hamels said of the 2-2 pitch up in the zone. “I think you look at where that‘s located, that‘s kind of a sweet zone. If a guy‘s got enough power, that’s what he does. He‘s supposed to hit homers. (If) I make a pitch right there, and it could be a double play, it could be an out, it could be a swing and a miss.

“So that one pitch right there really kind of dictated the game, and changed everything. It‘s the tough part; out of a hundred pitches, you get one that does some serious damage.”

In Hamels‘ three starts, he‘s combined to allow nine earned runs on 17 hits (including five homers) and nine walks in 16 innings. He‘s also stuck out 23 batters, including five on Sunday.

In his first three starts a year ago, Hamels allowed seven runs in 18 innings. He failed to go at least six innings in seven of his 24 starts in 2017. Two of those were three-inning outings in his last two starts of the season when he allowed a combined nine earned runs on 11 hits and five walks.

“They attacked early on the fastball and were very aggressive,” manager Jeff Banister said of the Blue Jays, who had eight of their 11 hits against Hamels. “Cole is a great thinking pitcher. He knows how to pitch, and he has command and feel. They had a good approach on him early and he made a couple of adjustments. They got a couple of balls through the infield to set up some runners in scoring position.”

One of those came in the third when Kevin Pillar drove in Justin Smoak with an infield single off Hamels‘ leg.

“Unfortunately, my glove was behind my shoe, not in front, so that kinda makes it tough,” Hamels said. “When you put your team down 4-0, you‘re having to play a little bit differently, and it just makes it uneasy for what we have to do to go out there and win.”

The Rangers, who open a three-game home series Monday night against the Los Angeles Angels, left 11 men on base and had the tying run at the plate in Elvis Andrus after scoring a run in the eighth. Roberto Osuna got Andrus on a check-swing grounder back to the mound.

Texas the bases loaded in the seventh with one out but Adrian Beltre struck out and Joey Gallo popped out to end the inning.

“Osuna threw a lot of good pitches right on the corner at a high velocity,” said Andrus, who was 1 for 4 with a walk. “Everybody who was in that situation it was pretty much the same. They made good pitches. You got to tip your cap when the reliever makes good pitches.”

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