SEATTLE - Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels has been through a few pennant races and late-season pushes in his career. He has shown he can handle crunch time and did so again on Thursday night.
Hamels held the Mariners to one run on three hits over eight innings in the Rangers 4-2 victory at Safeco Field. The Rangers are now tied with the Angels, 2 1/2 games behind the Twins for the second American League Wild Card playoff spot. They have 10 games to play after finishing off a three-game sweep of the Mariners.
"Yeah, you know, big-time player and we've seen this so many times before out of him," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Situations like this, where it's a big-time start, we were limited on the back end of the bullpen really, so he stepped up and delivered. [He[ had everything going tonight."
This was Hamels' second win over the Mariners this month. He also beat them on Sept. 11, allowing three runs in six innings in a 5-3 victory. The only run off him Thursday was a home run by Nelson Cruz in the seventh inning.
"Cole Hamels was very good," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Give him credit. Best changeup I've seen him have in a long time. He kept going to it and we had a hard time recognizing it and putting anything together."
The wins over the Mariners are his only two wins in five starts this month, but he is usually better in September. Hamels is now 28-15 with a 3.29 ERA in 62 career starts and one relief appearances in the month of September. That is a .651 winning percentage that is now 19th best all-time among pitchers with at least 60 September career starts.
Hamels said he tailors his entire conditioning program to stay strong to November and the results have shown through his career. He has been on seven teams that made it to postseason and he's been a National League Championship Series and World Series Most Valuable Player.
"When you do get in into September, you see the light at the end of the tunnel and that's when you kind of make your push," Hamels said. "Something I've always had. It's fun to feel that cooler air, little more excitement, that will get you revved up a little more. There is something at stake. When you go out there and pitch with something at stake, you get a little bit better. I have been doing it a long time."
This start came on a night when the Rangers needed a break for their bullpen. Closer Alex Claudio and left-handed setup reliever Jake Diekman were both unavailable because of their recent workloads. Hamels threw a season-high 108 pitches.
"Just go out and pitch deep in the game, that's what I always intend to do," Hamels said. "It's kind of why I am here. When you are able to get a good rhythm -- I was able to get some quick outs early -- you know you might be able to extend it deep into the ballgame and give that bullpen a mental break. It's good to know late in the season things are starting to come together and feel in sync."
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.