ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Texas Rangers have won their last 11 games started by Cole Hamels.
They needed each of those victories to get this far, and their season will be over without another one Wednesday against Toronto in the decisive Game 5 of the AL Division Series.
"It's why you go out and get top performers, elite competitors ... situations exactly like this," manager Jeff Banister said Tuesday. "That's a comforting feeling that we've got a guy on the mound that's going to go for us that has been here, has done it, and is quite capable of continuing to do it."
Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, will be pitching in a winner-take-all game for the first time when he goes against Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman in a rematch of Game 2 of the ALDS. The Rangers won 6-4 in 14 innings Friday when both starters pitched seven innings and departed with the score 4-4.
"Who else would you rather have on the mound when you have to win a game than your ace," catcher Chris Gimenez said. "The fact that he has been there before is really, I think, the biggest confidence boost."
Hamels, who is 7-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 14 postseason starts, threw a three-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels in the regular season finale to clinch the AL West title. That was his only complete game since he was acquired from Philadelphia on July 31, when he was coming off a no-hitter for the Phillies.
Before the team departed for Canada on Tuesday, Hamels played catch with pitching coach Mike Maddux in the outfield at the Rangers' ballpark. The pitcher wasn't made available to speak with reporters.
The Rangers were eight games out of first place after Hamels made his Texas debut Aug. 1, an extra-inning loss. They also lost his second start, but have won his last 11 turns in the rotation — Hamels is 7-0 with a 3.16 ERA in that span.
After opening this ALDS by winning the first two games at Toronto, the Rangers lost twice at home in a 24-hour span.
For the Rangers, it is the same situation they faced in the 2010 ALDS when they won two games in Tampa Bay, lost two at home and then went back on the road to win Game 5.
That clincher came with Cliff Lee on the mound, and the Rangers went on to their first World Series that season. They were AL champions again in 2011.
"I remember going back into Tampa in 2010, we felt pretty good because we had the right guy with the ball," Maddux said. "I think we've got the same thing working right now. As Yogi would say, deja vu all over again. I hope so."
Lee, who once was a teammate and mentor to Hamels, is another ace lefty who was a midseason acquisition for Texas. While Lee left in free agency after the 2010 season, Hamels has a contract that goes through 2018 and includes a club option for 2019.
Maddux didn't personally know Hamels before the pitcher got to Texas, but quickly found out how grounded and motivated the lefty is.
"I think Game 162 is indicative of that," Maddux said. "I think Game 2 that he pitched in Toronto was indicative of that. When it got a little hairy out there, boy, he turned it up a notch and he got better as that game went along. ... He's going to keep coming at you, not going to back down."