Cole Hamels didn't have his best night on Monday in a big series opener against the first-place Astros.
The veteran lefty, who was brought in at the trade deadline and instantly became this club's ace, had an absent-minded balk that could've been disastrous and failed to execute a shutdown inning after a Mitch Moreland two-run homer put the Rangers up 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
But despite all that, Hamels showed why he was brought here despite the fact the Rangers appeared to be on the outside looking in in terms of being a true contender back at the end of July.
Hamels, who has an NLCS MVP and World Series MVP on his resume, is accustomed to big games, and as far as regular-season games go, there aren't many bigger than Monday's was. Hamels got out of jam after jam — some caused by his own blunders and others by his teammates' in the field, but regardless, Hamels always kept the damage to a minimum.
When all was said and done, Hamels worked seven innings and allowed three runs with four strikeouts and a walk on 114 pitches — the most he's thrown since the trade and since his final start as a Phillie, which was a no-hitter at Wrigley Field.
Hamels gets the Astros again in Houston next weekend, and then would be in line to start whatever comes next, whether it be a Game 163 tiebreaker, the AL Wild Card Game or Game 1 of a possible ALDS, and that's just the way the Rangers want it.