Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister said there was a noticeable edge to starter Cole Hamels when he took the mound on Friday night against the Houston Astros and that he "had that face."
Hamels put his early season woes behind him, allowing just one hit over six innings to narrowly outduel Justin Verlander in a 1-0 win over the Astros.
Hamels (2-4) acknowledged that he did put extra pressure on himself to right the ship for the Rangers, who entered the day 15-24 at the bottom of the AL West standings.
"The situation of what's going on, what we're trying to accomplish and what we haven't been able to accomplish -- a lot of it starts from the top with the veteran guys," Hamels said. "It starts from the first moment of the series, and when you're playing a team like Houston, you definitely have to bring your A-game."
He cruised through the first four innings without allowing a hit before Evan Gattis led off the fifth with a single that dribbled between third base and shortstop into left field.
Hamels allowed six baserunners — one hit, three walks and two hit batters — while striking out five. He entered the game having lost six of his previous seven decisions. Keone Kela earned his eighth save of the season, walking one in the ninth.
"We chased a little bit in, but he did threaten us in a little bit," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Tonight was a little bit of a different game plan than he has had before and a little velocity spike. We just couldn't get anything going."
Astros outfielder George Springer left the game in the fourth inning after being hit by a 92 mph fastball from Hamels on his left elbow and was on the ground for nearly two minutes as Houston's medical staff attended to him. Springer finished the inning as a baserunner but was replaced in center field in the top of the fourth by Jake Marisnick. He is day to day with an elbow bruise. X-rays were negative, Hinch said.
"I had no intentions of coming out," Springer said. "I don't like to do that. I believe if my arm is attached, I can still play."
The Rangers finally got to Verlander (4-2) in the seventh. Nomar Mazara hit a leadoff double and Adrian Beltre and Joey Gallo drew consecutive walks to load the bases. Hinch brought in right-handed reliever Chris Devenski, who allowed Jurickson Profar's sacrifice fly before striking out the next two batters to escape the inning without further damage.
In six innings, Verlander allowed three hits and one run while striking out seven. The Astros have mustered one run or less in three of Verlander's nine starts so far this season.
"You can't let yourself get frustrated as a starting pitcher with run support -- a lot of run support, a little run support -- you have to go out there and do your job," Verlander said. "It's easy enough to get frustrated, and I think the one thing you have to do is stay positive. Do you want to win? Yeah. Do I want to win? Yeah. I feel like I help my team the most when I get a win, but the most you can do is go out there and keep your teams in ballgames, and I think you have to take a lot of pride in doing that."
Rangers: C Robinson Chirinos said before Friday's game that he's still dealing with inflammation and soreness in his left wrist, but that is has improved in recent days. Chirinos was out of the lineup Tuesday and Wednesday and received an injection on Tuesday to help relieve the pain.
The last time the Astros were one-hit was Aug. 20, 2015 against Tampa Bay. The last time Hamels allowed just one hit was May 6, 2016 at Detroit.
HE SAID IT
"That was two big-time pitchers tonight. If you love pitching, tonight was definitely the night to tune in." — Rangers manager Jeff Banister
NÚÑEZ DESIGNATED FOR ASSIGNMENT
To make room on the roster for Rougned Odor, the Rangers designated infielder/outfielder Renato Núñez for assignment on Friday. Núñez batted .167 (6-36) with one home run and 2 RBI in 13 games for Texas after he was received on a waiver claim from the Oakland Athletics on Apr. 15. He committed two errors at third base in his last game with the Rangers in a 5-4 win over Detroit on Wednesday, going 1-for-3 with two strikeouts. The Rangers have seven days to trade, release, or outright Núñez to the minor leagues.
Rangers: Doug Fister (1-3, 4.02 ERA) is 0-1 with a 4.08 ERA since returning from the disabled list on April 25 with a right hip strain. Fister held Houston to four hits and one run in five innings of a 5-1 win in his Rangers debut on March 30.
Astros: Charlie Morton (4-0, 2.16 ERA) looks to improve to stay undefeated. In his first start against Texas this season, Morton allowed six hits and two runs in six innings but did not factor in the decision of Houston's 6-5 loss.