CHICAGO (AP) — Nearly a year after throwing a no-hitter at Wrigley Field, Cole Hamels was masterful again in his return to the famed ballpark.
Hamels pitched eight dominant innings, and the Texas Rangers stopped a four-game slide by topping the Chicago Cubs 4-1 Sunday in a matchup of division leaders.
"I got 10 days of rest. You get a whole week of rest, I guess that helps," Hamels said. "I know it's the second half, want to start off right. This is now the go time."
Hamels (10-2) struck out his first six batters. He fanned seven overall and gave up just an unearned run on four hits.
"The fastball, the cutter allowed him to get to the changeup today, and he was really exceptional," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
Last summer, the lefty threw a no-hitter and struck out 13 at Wrigley in his final start for Philadelphia. He was then traded to the Rangers.
"I've always enjoyed coming to Wrigley Field," Hamels said. "Growing up as a kid watching it on WGN, it's just a great ballpark to come play at. The fans are great here. I'm just going out enjoying the moment."
Sam Dyson struck out three in the ninth for his 19th save in 21 chances.
Ian Desmond homered and Robinson Chirinos drove in two runs as Texas avoided a three-game sweep. The Cubs had won three in a row.
John Lackey (7-6) allowed four runs and six hits in eight innings as his winless streak reached seven starts on a warm afternoon with the wind blowing out. He is 14-16 in 41 starts against Texas, the team he's faced most often in his career.
"The story really today was Cole. He pitched really well," Lackey said. "We weren't able to do anything against him. I was honestly pretty happy about the way I threw the ball. Threw eight innings and definitely not a good day to pitch."
Hamels fanned the side in the first two innings.
"I was able to execute pretty well," Hamels said. "Sometimes things just work enough to miss the barrels. If you can go out and really establish the strike zone early, they can't get as comfortable."
The streak ended when Matt Szczur popped out and Albert Almora Jr. reached on third baseman Adrian Beltre's error in the third. Javier Baez doubled home a run.
Elvis Andrus' RBI single and Chirinos' sacrifice fly put the Rangers ahead in the second. Almora made a leaping catch in center field to rob Chirinos of extra bases.
Chirinos hit an RBI double after Lackey walked the first two batters in the fourth.
Desmond led off the eighth with his 16th home run.
The Cubs got back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the seventh before a double play and groundout ended the rally.
"Cole did exactly what we needed today, and we got hits when they counted and we were able to get the win," first baseman Prince Fielder said. "Good defense, great win all around.
"We needed it really bad. We've been struggling as a team."
Rangers: OF Shin-Soo Choo (back) was out of the lineup for a third straight game, but Banister said the team isn't considering putting him on the disabled list just yet. "It still seems to bother him when he's throwing," Banister said. . RHP Kyle Lohse (strained oblique) threw a pain-free bullpen session Saturday. Banister expects him to start Tuesday at the Angels.
Lackey argued with home plate umpire Cory Blaser after the top of the sixth before right fielder Jason Heyward got between them. Cubs manager Joe Maddon then addressed Blaser. Lackey declined to go into details of the chat.
"They're talking about Christmas cards for next year," Maddon joked. "Just let John vent a little bit. He's fine."
Rangers: RHP A.J. Griffin (3-1, 3.81 ERA) is scheduled to start Monday's opener of a three-game series at the Angels, who are expected to start RHP Nick Tropeano (3-2, 3.12).
Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (9-4, 3.01) is to start Monday's opener of a three-game set against the visiting Mets and LHP Steven Matz (7-5, 3.38). Lester allowed a season-high eight runs in a career-low 1 1/3 innings in his other start against New York this season.