Cole Hamels' 13 postseason starts and 2008 World Series MVP are proof that he has big-game experience, and the Texas Rangers have benefited from it during their playoff push.
The club's current rotation would cause Hamels to miss crucial series against contenders down the stretch, but as far as manager Jeff Banister is concerned, no game is more important than any other at this stage.
Hamels looks to stay hot when the visiting Rangers face the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
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Texas (72-64) has gone 25-12 since July 29, two days before it acquired Hamels (2-1, 3.89 ERA) from Philadelphia. The surge has put the Rangers 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota for the AL's second wild card and helped trim their deficit behind Houston in the West from eight to two.
Hamels has gone 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA over his last four starts after he struck out eight in seven innings of Texas' 4-3, 10-inning win at San Diego on Wednesday. His only loss in six starts with Texas came Aug. 7 against Seattle, when he surrendered homers to Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Mark Trumbo in a 4-3 loss.
The left-hander began his unbeaten stretch 10 days later by going seven innings in the Rangers' 4-3 win over the Mariners. As it currently stands, Hamels wouldn't pitch in a four-game home series against the Astros that begins Monday, nor would he be slated to start at Houston from Sept. 25-27.
Banister said he doesn't have plans to alter the rotation in order to get Hamels a start in either of those series.
"Obviously, we have looked at some options, but right now, we're looking at the rotation that gives us the best options with the games right in front of us," Banister told MLB's official website. "We have to win the games in front of us."
The Rangers have done that more often that not lately and beat the Mariners 3-0 in Monday's opener of this four-game set. Adrian Beltre had a two-run single in the sixth before Rougned Odor scored on a wild pitch in the seventh.
Seattle (66-72) had a season-high five-game winning streak snapped while getting shut out for the first time since July 4 at Oakland. Cano had two hits and is batting .417 during a nine-game hitting streak at home.
The Mariners struggled for the first time without Cruz, who missed his fifth straight game with a strained right quad. They scored 30 runs in the previous four and averaged 7.4 during their winning streak.
There's a chance Cruz returns to the lineup as the designated hitter in this contest.
Taijuan Walker (10-7, 4.51) has gone 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA over his last seven starts, a stretch that began with a one-hitter against Minnesota on July 31. He pitched 6 2/3 innings of Wednesday's 8-3 win over Houston and didn't appear to have any issues after leaving his previous outing Aug. 28 in the seventh inning with a cramp in his right hip.
The right-hander gave up an unearned run in seven innings of a 3-1 win over Texas on April 27, but allowed three runs in Seattle's loss Aug. 17 when he opposed Hamels.
Walker likely won't have to face Delino DeShields, who suffered a mild left knee sprain Monday and is expected to sit out at least this contest.