Newberg: Closer

rangers win the division

Jerad Eickhoff went 3-3, 2.65 in eight starts, with really good peripherals, for a Phillies club looking to find a new identity.  He looks like a guy who can pitch in the middle of a big league rotation right now, super affordably.

Alec Asher didn’t fare as well in his big league debut (0-6, 9.31 in seven starts), but his AAA numbers with Lehigh Valley were solid and he’s got a very good chance to be a lot more productive than Beau Jones ever was.

Jake Thompson was brilliant in seven AA starts (5-1, 1.80) and could be very, very good.

Nick Williams was even better with AA Reading (.320/.340/.536) than he’d been with AA Frisco (.299/.357/.479), and will be all over all the Top 100 Prospects lists this winter.  He’s going to hit big league pitching forever.

Jorge Alfaro has a chance to better than any of them.  There’s work to be done, and he’s got to stay out of the trainer’s room, but he could be great.  One day soon I’ll take him off the header to these emails.

We wish all of you the very best.

4-3.

4-2.

4-1.

4-3.

9-6.

5-3.

10-1.

8-1.

7-6.

9-2.

Those are the final scores of the last 10 games Cole Hamels started.

They were all Rangers games.

The first number in each score belonged to Texas.

Seven batters in yesterday, in Game 162, the Angels had doubled, homered, and doubled, recording four outs.

After that?

The Angels went 0 for 23 (with two walks and a hit batsman).

Do the math.  Four outs, plus an 0 for 23, equals . . . .

Ballgame.

For all who wondered going into Sunday who in the world the Rangers’ closer would be for the day, given the debilitated state of the bullpen, your number one starter answered the question.

Cole Hamels would be the closer.

First-pitch strikes to 22 of 33 hitters, critical given the need to keep the pitch count down.  Eight strikeouts, 10 groundouts — including the final four hitters the Angels would send to the plate this season.

In fact, their final six hitters came up after Hamels sat through what had to be a 45-minute (and glorious) bottom-of-seventh.  Hamels struck Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun (Saturday’s ninth-inning home run hitters) out, and then coaxed groundouts off the bats of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, C.J. Cron, . . . and David Freese.

While it didn’t erase four-year-old things fully, seeing the Texas Rangers rush the field after retiring David Freese felt pretty good.

Texas didn’t have a Cole Hamels in 2011.  They had one the year before that (Cliff Lee) and the year after (Yu Darvish), but while the 2011 rotation was really good, there wasn’t that guy whose back everyone was invited to jump on for games as big as yesterday’s was — given not only what was at stake as far as playoff position was concerned, but also the emotional devastation and depleted relief corps that the team was saddled with from the day before.

9-3-2-2-2-8.

And more to come.

Thank you, Cole, for saying no to Houston.

Thank you, Houston, for saying no to Jeff Banister.

Thank you, ownership, for saying yes to JD.

Thank you, Philadelphia, and I sincerely hope Williams and Thompson and Alfaro and Eickhoff and Asher and whoever you take with the first overall pick in the draft in eight months help you play meaningful September games again soon.

Just a few months ago, it looked far more likely that Texas would be drafting number one in June than number 23.

Instead, on the day Asher celebrated his 24th birthday, Cole Hamels was entrusted with the ball in the biggest game the Rangers have had in a couple years.

The Rangers decided a couple weeks ago, when deciding how to use their final off-day to arrange the rotation, that — even though it meant he wouldn’t pitch in Houston on the season’s penultimate weekend — they wanted to be able to call Hamels’s number on the season’s final day.

We all knew after Friday and Saturday that he was going to need to go eight yesterday.  Maybe nine.

He’d thrown 101 pitches through eight innings, and the lead was seven.  All things considered, though, Banister didn’t even ask the usual question of his number one.

“I wasn’t checking with Cole.  He was our guy.

“You could see the look in his eyes. . . . Big players step up in big spots.”

Hamels: “I want to be out there for the last out, no matter what.  You just go out there and try to seal the deal.”

Go out there.  Seal the deal.

That’s what closers do.

hamels newberg

magic number 11 newberg

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This contribution was provided by Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report. The Newberg Report provides daily coverage of the Texas Rangers.