For six innings, Cole Hamels dominated the Baltimore Orioles.
Unfortunately for the Texas Rangers, his impressive run began after the left-hander got off to an uncharacteristically poor start.
Hamels gave up three first-inning runs, and that — along with a strong outing by Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman — was enough to provide Baltimore with a 3-2 victory Wednesday night.
Matt Wieters had two RBIs for the Orioles, whose 39-16 record at home is the best in the majors. Baltimore will seek to complete a three-game sweep on Thursday in a series between first-place teams.
Baltimore took control by using three hits and two walks to jump out to a 3-1 lead.
"You want to be able to go out there and get ahead," Hamels said. "Sometimes you are not able to find it in that first inning and that will definitely cost you. More times than not, you can try to scratch out a win, but it's definitely my fault, with not being able to establish a strike zone in those key situations."
After the shaky first inning, Hamels (12-3) retired 13 of the next 14 batters without allowing a hit. He ended up giving up three runs, four hits and four walks over seven innings.
Not bad, but not good enough.
Hamels was 7-1 in his previous 11 starts and 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA since the All-Star break.
Carlos Beltran homered in his second game with Texas since being obtained in a trade with the Yankees on Monday. New catcher Jonathan Lucroy also picked up his first RBI with the Rangers, and closer Jeremy Jeffress — obtained in the trade with Milwaukee that landed Lucroy — spent the night in the Texas bullpen after arriving earlier in the day.
After Beltran hit his 23rd homer in the first inning, Baltimore took the lead for good in the bottom half. Mark Trumbo hit an RBI groundout and Wieters added a two-run single for a 3-1 lead.
Lucroy delivered an RBI single in the second to get Texas within a run, but neither team scored again.
Gausman (3-8) gave up two runs and seven hits in seven innings, striking out seven and walking one. The right-hander had won only two of his 18 starts this season and was coming off a horrid outing in which he allowed three homers and six runs over three innings at Toronto.
And still, he was good enough to outpitch Hamels.
"You can give in to what conventionality says it should be like, or you can compete and look at it as an opportunity to present yourself real well," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Showalter summed up the victory succinctly: "It wasn't like we beat (Hamels) up or anything. We had one shot at it and we took advantage of it. And our pitching made it hold up."
Darren O'Day worked a perfect eighth and Zach Britton finished for his 33rd save in 33 tries.
Gausman — like the Orioles — seems to perform better at home. He's 0-7 on the road but has won his last three starts at Camden Yards.
"I just feel comfortable pitching here," Gausman said.
Rangers: OF Shin-Soo Choo (lower back inflammation) hopes to be activated from the DL on Thursday. "Everything feels like normal," he said. "I feel like I can help this team."
Orioles: Rookie OF Joey Rickard (thumb) won't be available before September. "I think we'll get him back sometime this year," Showalter said. "It's just a matter of how quickly."
Rangers: A.J. Griffin (4-1, 3.99 ERA) faces the Orioles for the first time since 2013 in the series finale Thursday night. Texas is 9-4 in his 13 starts.
Orioles: Wade Miley (7-8, 4.98) makes his debut with the Orioles. Obtained on Sunday in a trade with Seattle, the 29-year-old is the lone lefty in the Baltimore rotation.