Cole Hamels appears to be getting more and more comfortable with each start he makes for the Texas Rangers, who have the third-most wins in the AL since acquiring the left-hander at the trade deadline.
That solid play over the last four weeks has helped the Rangers pass the Baltimore Orioles in the wild-card race, making this weekend's three-game series crucial as the calendar gets ready to switch to September.
Hamels looks to build on his first win in a Rangers uniform Friday night in his first matchup with the Orioles in over six years.
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Texas was three games behind Minnesota for the second wild card and two in back of Baltimore after the smoke cleared from the July 31 deadline. The Rangers, though, have gone 15-9 this month while Baltimore is 11-14.
That has helped the Rangers (65-61) overtake the Orioles (63-64) in the race for the second wild card, and Baltimore could be without All-Star center fielder Adam Jones after he crashed into the wall and left Thursday's game at Kansas City.
"He feels a lot better now than he did. His vision was - most of it was whiplash," manager Buck Showalter said. "I don't think there's any head trauma, concussion-wise."
Showalter said that Jones would be evaluated Friday.
The Rangers avoided a three-game sweep with a 4-1 win over Toronto on Thursday, while the Orioles fell 5-3 to the Royals for their seventh loss in eight contests.
Texas lost Hamels' first two starts as he posted a 5.93 ERA, but he then allowed three runs in seven innings of a walk-off win over Seattle on Aug. 17. His first victory with the Rangers came Sunday after he gave up two runs over six innings to beat Detroit 4-2.
"I felt like I've not contributed in a way I know I'm capable of doing," Hamels (1-1, 4.73 ERA) told MLB's official website. "I think that's more the case - feeling more united with the team that I've actually pulled some weight around."
He'll be opposed by Kevin Gausman (2-5, 4.30), who has done his part recently but continues to be hurt by a lack of support.
The right-hander has a 3.60 ERA over his last three starts, though the Orioles have dropped each of them while handing him four runs. He's received an average of 2.64 runs in 10 starts, which would be the second-lowest in the majors if he qualified.
Gausman gave up two runs and three hits and tied a career best with eight strikeouts over seven innings of a 4-3 loss in 12 to the Twins on Sunday.
"That might be about as good an outing as he's had," Showalter said.
Gausman pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings and struck out seven against Texas on July 2, when the Rangers scored twice in the ninth to pull out a 2-0 victory and take three of four in Baltimore.
The Orioles have won six of seven in Arlington, including the 2012 wild-card game.
Baltimore will add rookie outfielder Dariel Alvarez and reinstate Steve Clevenger from the paternity list for this series. Alvarez hit .275 with 16 homers and 72 RBIs at Triple-A Norfolk, while Clevenger is batting .371 in nine games since being recalled Aug. 14.