The Texas Rangers acquired lefty ace Cole Hamels at the July 31 trade deadline not so much for this year's pennant push, but for the three-plus years left on his contract.
It's an added benefit to the Rangers that he's helping to further push the Orioles out of pennant contention.
Of course, the Orioles are doing a solid job of imploding without any help from outsiders.
Hamels threw eight innings of two-hit ball in the Rangers' 4-1 victory before an announced 28,337 at Globe Life Park — marking the Orioles' eighth loss in their past nine games. They have scored three or fewer runs in all eight losses.
“We've been struggling offensively and that is compounded [by Hamels]. That's the type of guy you get for six prospects,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He was good and we weren't, so that's a bad combination. We're just not stringing much together offensively.”
The Orioles (63-65) are now 31/2 games behind the Rangers (66-61) for the American League's second wild card and have two more to play in Texas before heading home from what has the appearance of being a season-snuffing road trip. They are 1-4 in this stretch to Kansas City and Texas.
In his fifth start — and longest — as a Ranger, Hamels dominated a swing-happy Orioles lineup, striking out 10 batters and allowing just one run, on a bases-loaded walk to Chris Davis in the third inning to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
After that, Hamels retired 14 straight before walking Manny Machado in the eighth. Hamels (8-8) allowed just two hits and four walks in the game while picking up his 30th 10-strikeout performance of his career and first with Texas. It also was his first win against the Orioles, but just his third start.
The Orioles struck out 12 times overall, and have 64 strikeouts over their past six games.
“It's been a challenge for us most of the year and will continue to be,” Showalter said. “You live with them if the run production is there, but it hasn't been there.”
Showalter said the meek showing Friday was a product of both the Orioles' continued offensive struggles and a tough pitcher in Hamels.
“It's the big leagues, we've figured out how to score off some of those people,” Showalter said. “But it's been tough on our pitchers — they know that runs are going to be at a premium. I was looking and we haven't scored enough runs to give them much room for error. We've got to turn that part of it around. It's tough.”
Hamels' counterpart, Orioles' right-hander Kevin Gausman, pitched into the seventh but wasn't particularly crisp, allowing four runs on nine hits and a walk in 62/3 innings. Gausman was aware of what he was up against with Hamels starting for the Rangers.
"I kind of knew that going into the night, especially with the guy I was facing,” he said. “He's been great all year and continues to be. He kind of settled in. I think he was a little sporadic early on, but he definitely settled in and put a pretty good start together.”
Gausman (2-6) got into trouble in the second, but right fielder Dariel Alvarez, in his big league debut, made his presence known immediately.
Considered to have the best throwing arm among outfielders throughout the organization — including a stronger one than Gold Glove center fielder Adam Jones — Alvarez showed it off in the second inning.
With runners on the corners and no outs, Elvis Andrus hit a sinking liner to right that Alvarez caught. In one motion, the 26-year-old unleashed a perfect one-hop throw to catcher Matt Wieters, who tagged Adrian Beltre to complete the double play.
"He's kind of always like that down in Norfolk. He throws guys out left and right. He has probably one of the best outfield arms I've ever seen,” Gausman said. “Obviously that was huge. I don't think Beltre looked at the scouting report on the outfielders before the game. Yeah, he's definitely kind of a freak athlete. He swings hard and runs hard. He plays the game the right way. He has a really good arm out there in right.”
The Orioles entered the night tied with the Minnesota Twins for most outfield assists in the majors and then added two more, bringing their total to 39. Jones threw out Prince Fielder trying for a double in the fourth.
It came directly after Gausman had allowed his first run, a solo homer to right by Shin-Soo Choo that just stayed fair.
The Rangers tacked on two more runs in the fifth. One came on a solo homer by catcher Chris Gimenez, his fourth of the season — all in his past 11 games. They picked up their third run on an RBI force out by Choo, who hustled to first to beat out a potential inning-ending double play.
Their final run came on an RBI triple by rookie Delino DeShields, the son of the former Oriole.
Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson allowed an infield hit, but pitched a scoreless ninth for his 27th save.
Texas is now 17-9 since trading for Hamels — at a time when the Rangers were 49-52 and an after thought in the AL pennant race. The Orioles were 51-50 and are now 12-15 since the July 31 trade deadline.
“It's really tough,” second baseman Jonathan Schoop said. “Trying to go out and win, and things don't go our way right now.”