Cole Hamels' comfort level with the Texas Rangers is increasing. It's sure to get better against the San Diego Padres.
Hamels looks to continue his dominance of his hometown team and help the Rangers conclude this three-game series with back-to-back wins Wednesday night.
Sitting three games under .500 at the July 31 trade deadline, Texas (69-62) acquired Hamels (2-1, 3.89 ERA) from Philadelphia in search of a turnaround.
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That's happened with the Rangers going 20-10 after beating San Diego 8-6 on Tuesday. They're one game ahead of Minnesota for the AL's second wild-card spot and three back of Houston for first in the West.
Hamels has also settled down, winning his last two starts by yielding three runs in 14 innings. The left-hander dominated Baltimore on Friday, fanning 10 and allowing one run and two hits in eight innings of a 4-1 victory.
"This is what everybody kind of envisioned when we traded for him," catcher Chris Gimenez said.
Hamels will now attempt to improve upon his 6-0 record and 1.24 ERA over his last eight starts against the Padres (64-68). He's 5-0 with a 1.47 ERA over his last six at Petco Park.
"This is the part of the season where everything is and everything's focused on. This is where you have to be at your best," said Hamels, who is 21-12 with a 2.93 ERA in 47 games in September - including a 1.96 ERA in six last year.
Elvis Andrus is hitting .378 over his past 11 games. The shortstop has three hits in this series, driving in two runs Tuesday and stealing home to cap Texas' four-run seventh.
Andrus is a .382 hitter in 10 meetings with San Diego.
The Padres give the ball to Ian Kennedy, who's 4-3 with a 2.32 ERA and 9.66 strikeouts per nine innings over his last eight starts. He's been particularly outstanding over the last four, compiling a 1.48 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 24 1-3 innings. However, he's split all four decisions since he's been backed by four total runs.
"Kennedy has been building up," manager Pat Murphy told MLB's official website. "The last three or four he's been on it. I'm confident where he's at."
The right-hander allowed two runs - one on a wild pitch - and two hits but issued five walks while hitting a batter in 6 2-3 innings of Friday's 7-1 loss at Philadelphia.
"Another one where he can say he pitched well and gave us a chance," Murphy said.
Kennedy (8-12, 3.94) has won four straight starts at home behind a 1.57 ERA.
He's 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA in two starts against Texas - both on the road. He gave up four runs and two homers with three walks in 4 1-3 innings of a 4-3 loss July 10.
Kennedy has had a tough time with Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder, who are a combined 6 for 16 with three homers off him.
Beltre is batting .389 in his last 10 games after getting a pair of hits and scoring twice Tuesday.
Matt Kemp has been a force for the Padres, hitting .354 with six homers and 25 RBIs in his last 16 games. The right fielder came a triple shy of the cycle while driving in four runs Tuesday.
He's 7 for 18 with three doubles off Hamels.