Cole Hamels was coming off a no-hitter when he got traded to the Texas Rangers three years ago.
With Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline approaching and the Rangers now at the bottom of the AL West and far out of contention, the left-hander would seem to be a target for contending teams.
Except the 2008 World Series MVP is in a stretch that he calls "probably the worst of my career so far."
In his last home start for Texas before the deadline, Hamels (5-9) allowed seven runs on Monday night against Oakland. It was the third time in four July games he allowed seven runs, including at Baltimore when he got only two outs on 41 pitches on a day four runs were unearned.
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"He's a competitor, man, and I think the way everything's happened this year, it's affecting him. He's a guy that his whole career he's been in contention," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said Wednesday. "I think he's kind of like thinking too much out there while he's pitching right now."
Along with the extended struggles by Hamels, some of the Rangers relievers scouted by other teams also are in rough patches.
Texas took a 10-2 lead into the seventh inning against Oakland on Tuesday night and lost 13-10 in 10 innings. Closer Keone Kela threw a career-high 40 pitches in his first blown save after converted 23 in a row to start this season, and left-hander Jake Diekman walked three batters and hit another while allowing four runs.
Hamels is 1-3 in his last five starts, allowing 25 earned runs in 22 innings and raising his ERA from 3.41 to a career-high 4.72. He has given up 23 homers in 20 starts and has thrown fewer than 100 pitches in eight of his last 10.
"When you're not performing physically, there's an easier excuse," Hamels said. "But when it kind of snowballs into multiple games, especially when they're back-to-back-to-back, that's when the mental side can kind of creep in a little bit more."
When asked after the 15-3 loss to Oakland if the idea of being traded again had entered his mind, he said that was part of the game and something players have to deal with.
"You can't run away from it," said Hamels, whose next scheduled start for the Rangers is Saturday at Houston.
The 34-year-old pitcher is owed about $8 million for the rest of this season. His contract includes a $20 million club option for 2019 that includes a $6 million buyout.
Hamels is 1-7 with a 6.41 ERA in 10 home starts this season but 4-2 with a 2.93 ERA in 10 starts away from Arlington. Overall, he has lost 13 of 20 decisions since opening his Rangers career with a 31-7 record.
"Professional, very competitive. Look at the expression on his face, I think that tells a little bit about the story, but I don't think he's ever lost the drive and the competitiveness," manager Jeff Banister said.
The 25-year-old Kela converted 25 consecutive save chances dating to last year before Tuesday night, when he entered with one out in the eighth. He allowed Stephen Piscotty's tying homer in the ninth.
Diekman, the reliever who was traded with Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies, has pitched in 44 games this season -- 22 each at home and on the road. The results have been drastically different, with a 7.94 ERA with 18 walks in 17 innings at home and an 0.47 ERA with five walks in 19 innings on the road.
"I feel terrible when I pitch at home," Diekman said. "Just keep pitching and figure it out."