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Rangers' Hamels looks to regain form against A's

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Left-hander Cole Hamels has a gaudy 14-5 record and solid 3.42 ERA in his first full season with the first-place Texas Rangers, but has struggled down the stretch.

In his past four starts, Hamels is 0-1 with a 10.50 ERA over 18 innings. He allowed 25 hits and 21 runs while walking 14 and striking out 20 during that span, which included a rough outing a week ago in Arlington against the Oakland Athletics.

Hamels gave up six runs and two homers over six innings and had a no-decision in the 7-6 Rangers' victory against Oakland on Sept. 16.

One week later, Hamels gets a rematch against the A's and right-hander Kendall Graveman on Friday night at the Oakland Coliseum. With the postseason quickly approaching, Hamels is running out of time to get back on track, but Rangers manager Jeff Banister isn't worried.

"I don't have a lot of concern for Cole," Banister said after Hamels' last outing. "This is a premier pitcher that I feel confident is going to get himself right and is going to put quality starts together for us, and he'll be ready when we need him."

Hamels gave up home runs to A's outfielders Khris Davis and Brett Eibner last week, but also walked three batters, continuing a trend. In his past four starts he has averaged 3.5 walks.

"The walks hurt me again," Hamels said. "That's four games in a row where walks have really been the deciding factor. It's unacceptable on my part just in the sense of what I'm capable of doing and what is expected when I go out there."

The Rangers' magic number to win the American League West was cut to one Thursday night when second-place Houston lost to the Los Angeles Angels 2-0.

Graveman (10-10) is 9-4 with a 3.78 ERA over his past 20 outings, but had a nightmarish game two starts ago against Seattle, giving up 12 hits and eight runs over five innings in a 14-3 loss. Graveman pitched much better in his next start against Texas. He gave up four runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. He left the game with a 6-3 lead but got a no-decision.

"The one against Seattle wasn't good," Graveman said Wednesday. "I didn't have great stuff. But I felt the one in Texas I threw the ball really well. I gave my team a chance to win. Something I didn't do against Seattle.

"That's my goal every time I go out is, first off, pitch deep in the ball game, and second off, be able when I come out to say that hey, we either have a lead or a chance to win a ball game. That was one of the things you kind of take away from that, a positive attitude and get ready to get out there and face that same team again in a couple days."

A's manager Bob Melvin liked what he saw from Graveman against Texas.

"I thought he threw the ball well the last time out," Melvin said. "The time before he struggled some, but last time out I thought he threw the ball well. It was really hot that night, but I thought he threw the ball the way we've seen him here the better part of the last couple months."

Hamels has faced the A's twice this season and has two no-decisions. On May 17 in Oakland, he gave up three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings in an 8-5 loss but allowed three solo home runs, two to Davis and one to Danny Valencia.

Davis has hit 10 of his team-high 40 home runs this season against the Rangers. In 15 games versus Texas, he's hitting .370 with 24 RBI, a .444 on-base percentage and a 1.019 slugging percentage. When the A's took two of three games from Texas in Arlington last weekend, Davis hit three home runs -- one each off Hamels, Colby Lewis and Keone Kela.

Davis missed the final two games of Oakland's three-game series against Houston with a stomach ailment, but after an off day Thursday, is expected to return to action against Texas.
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