ST. LOUIS — Since his only loss of the season on May 27 against Pittsburgh, Texas Rangers ace Cole Hamels has worked at least seven innings in four straight starts.
But in none of those outings was he as dominant as he was Friday night against a good-hitting St. Louis Cardinals lineup.
Hamels allowed just three hits and three walks in 7 2/3 scoreless innings, leading Texas to a 1-0 win at Busch Stadium.
Hamels (7-1) threw 65 of his 96 pitches for strikes. Two of the hits he yielded were broken-bat singles, including the last one to Matt Carpenter that chased him with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. The lone hard-hit ball was Jhonny Peralta’s liner that third baseman Adrian Beltre plucked at ankle level in the second inning.
“Things are working well,” Hamels said of his last four starts in which he has permitted just six runs in 28 2/3 innings. “It seems like all my pitches are doing what I want them to do. When that happens, it’s just a matter of executing my pitches with purpose.”
Manager Jeff Banister might have been the only barrier between Hamels and the Rangers’ second complete game in as many days. Banister wanted to keep Hamels’ pitch count around 100 after he threw at least 104 in his last three starts, so when Carpenter reached base for the fourth time, Banister waved in Matt Bush from the bullpen.
Bush retired Aledmys Diaz on a flyout to end the eighth. Closer Sam Dyson pitched a
clean ninth for his 12th save of the season, which second baseman Rougned Odor making a leaping grab of Peralta’s liner for the third out.
“Once we got past Carpenter, we felt like the best thing to do was to go to Matt Bush,” Banister said. “I think the mix of all his pitches, as well as the ability to keep those guys off-balance, was working best for (Hamels). I think he’s in a good rhythm right now.”
In upping its record to 43-25, Texas maintained a 6 1/2-game lead on Seattle in the American League West and assured itself of a winning road trip. It’s 6-2 with two games remaining before opening a homestand on Monday night.
Victimized by Hamels’ longest scoreless outing of the year was Michael Wacha (2-7), who lost his seventh straight decision despite quality work. Wacha matched Hamels’ 7 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and a run with two walks and seven strikeouts.
But Wacha’s only mistake was a killer. Leading off the fifth, Odor ambushed a first-pitch fastball 433 feet over the center field wall for his 13th homer of the season.
That pitch aside, Wacha thought his outing was a step in the right direction.
“I felt like I was getting ahead of guys and really pounding the strike zone,” he said. “The way that pitches were moving coming out of my hand, it felt good. I’m still working in between starts getting it where I want it to be, but it’s definitely on the right track for sure.”
It was the third straight loss for the Cardinals — all against AL West opposition — after a five-game winning streak. St. Louis (35-31) has managed only three runs in the three games and is 15-19 at home, a year after going 55-26 there.
The Cardinals, who entered the game averaging 5.4 runs per game, only pushed one runner as far as second base. Diaz, aboard on a fielder’s choice, stole second with two outs in the fourth. Stephen Piscotty walked, but Peralta flied out to right.
Simply put, St. Louis simply couldn’t string together any kind of offense to reward Wacha.
“Michael was great,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “He did a nice job of staying consistent. The changeup was a great pitch for him today. It was a shame we couldn’t get anything going.”