MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Even when Jorge Polanco led off the ninth with a double to finally get some energy going with the Minnesota crowd, Texas manager Jeff Banister had already made his decision.
It was going to be Cole Hamels’ night.
Like they had for the rest of the game, Minnesota’s next three batters went quietly in order, the Rangers won 4-1 and Hamels (6-1) ended the night needing only 96 pitches to finish the 16th complete game of his career.
“It was his game,” Banister said. “We’ve seen Cole in those type of situations. The look of him tonight, the stuff that he had, how strong he was, felt like he was as strong in the eighth and the ninth as at any point in the game.”
It was Hamels’ first complete game since Oct. 4, 2015, when the Rangers clinched the AL West title against Los Angeles. His previous low pitch count in a complete game was 97 in 2009.
The 33-year-old Hamels credited his changeup with being able to quickly induce the Twins batters into harmless groundouts and pop-ups all night.
“It’s a lot better pitch,” he said. “It definitely wakes up a scouting report for the other side, but it makes me feel a lot more like I did in 2011-2012, and 13-14. That’s kind of where I felt like I was at my strongest.”
With Hamels dominating, Nomar Mazara’s first-inning, two-run homer off Kyle Gibson (6-9) was all the offense Texas needed.
Hamels scattered four hits and allowed only four batters to reach base. He entered the game with a 6.35 career ERA against Minnesota, the highest of any opponent with at least six starts, but breezed through the lineup to pick up his third career win against the Twins.
With Elvis Andrus on base, the Rangers grabbed the lead for good only three batters in when Mazara sent the first pitch he saw from Gibson an estimated 407 feet into the bullpen. Mike Napoli came around to score after a leadoff walk in the second, and Robinson Chirinos added an RBI single in the ninth.
“When you put early runs in the game for him, you think you’re going to win the ballgame,” Mazara said.
The Twins’ only run against Hamels was unearned and came in the fifth after Byron Buxton singled, stole second and advanced to third on a bad throw from Chirinos at the plate. He scored on Ehire Adiranza’s groundout. Brian Dozier reached base twice against Hamels on a single and walk. Eduardo Escobar singled in the fourth but was thrown out trying to reach second.
“He did what he had to do to throw a complete game in minimal amount of pitches, and we just didn’t square any balls up,” manager Paul Molitor said. “Even some of the hits that we had weren’t particularly sharp.”
Gibson made his first major league start since being sent to the minors in late July, and was otherwise solid for the Twins, allowing seven hits and two walks while striking out four over 5 1/3 innings. But the Rangers made the most of his mistakes.
“I didn’t expect Mazara to be that aggressive there on the first pitch, that’s why we went away with him on the homer. After that, we kind of settled in,” Gibson said.
Rangers: LHP Jake Diekman threw about 30 pitches in his second simulated game of the week on Saturday, taking another step in a slow recovery from colon surgery. Pitching coach Doug Brocail said he originally wanted Diekman to throw about 20-25 pitches, and wanted to tire him out to see how he’d respond on Sunday.
Twins: 1B Miguel Sano remains day to day after taking a pitch off his left hand Friday night. Although X-rays were negative, the Twins slugger said it wasn’t feeling any better from the previous night. “When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t even make a fist,” Sano said through a translator. … Molitor said LHP Hector Santiago (back) will make another rehab start at Triple-A Rochester next week, saying his velocity isn’t consistent enough yet. “The last thing we want is to come up here and go backwards in some fashion,” Molitor said. … Molitor said closer Glen Perkins (shoulder) will likely throw a bullpen session in the coming days before beginning a rehab assignment at Double-A Chattanooga.
Rangers: RHP Nick Martinez (3-4) makes his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Rock Round on Monday. He’s 0-1 with a 6.06 ERA in three career starts against Minnesota.
Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (9-5) faces Texas for the first time in his career. He lost his last start on Aug. 1 at San Diego despite only allowing one run and two hits in seven innings.