(The Sports Xchange) - The Texas Rangers put their personal victory cigar on the mound in the biggest game of the season Sunday at Globe Life Park.
Cole Hamels did not disappoint.
The veteran left-hander pitched a complete-game three-hitter, and Texas clinched the American League West title with a 9-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
With its first division title since 2011, Texas heads to Toronto, where it will begin the American League Division Series against the Blue Jays on Thursday. The result eliminated the Angels from playoff contention.
The Rangers will do so knowing they have an ace in Hamels (7-1), who did not allow a hit after the second inning and struck out eight. Texas won each of the past 10 games started by Hamels, none bigger than Sunday.
“All I was thinking about was trying to manage the game and limit baserunners and go as deep as I could go,” Hamels said. “I knew we were going to score runs. It was just a matter of time.”
The time came in the seventh inning with the Rangers leading 3-2. Texas sent 10 hitters to the plate and scored six runs as the Angels were forced to use five relievers to get through the 37-minute half-inning.
Five consecutive Rangers hitters picked up RBIs. The surge started with a bases-loaded walk from designated hitter Prince Fielder and ended when shortstop Elvis Andrus ripped a two-run double to left.
One day after the Rangers could not hold a four-run lead in the ninth inning, they did not have that problem with Hamels on the mound. The last hit the Angels had against him was a one-out double by left fielder Shane Victorino in the second.
Hamels, who collected his second complete game of the season, retired 23 of the final 26 batters he faced. He threw 108 pitches one day after the Rangers had to use eight relievers in their 11-10 loss.
“That’s why he is an ace,” said Los Angeles center fielder Mike Trout, who doubled off Hamels and came around to score on designated hitter Albert Pujols’ homer in the first.
“He’s pitched in big games before, knows how to handle himself. We scratched some runs against him early and just fell short.”
The Rangers had a bullpen plan constructed in case Hamels struggled. Luckily for them, they did not need it.
“This game has a cruel sense of humor,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “From what happened yesterday, we got punched in the mouth. When that happens, you find out what you are made of, and you saw that in everything they did today.”
Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes