Texas Rangers: Can Cole Hamels find ace form in opening day rematch vs. Justin Verlander?

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ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 05: Cole Hamels #35 of the Texas Rangers works the first inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 5, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 05: Cole Hamels #35 of the Texas Rangers works the first inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 5, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /
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The Texas Rangers open up a three-game series against the Astros tonight. Game 1 headlines Cole Hamels vs. Justin Verlander. Can Hamels earn Texas a win by pitching like a true ace?

Tonight’s Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros matchup will feature each team’s ace. Just as on opening day, Cole Hamels will face Justin Verlander. Verlander got the best of Hamels in the first game of the year, leading his Astros’ squad to a 4-1 victory. Hamels did record the loss that day; he’s recorded three more losses in seven starts since then.

Without a doubt, Hamels is overdue for an ace-like performance. There’s no better time for one than against the division leaders, the defending champions, and the Rangers’ top rival.

Cole Hamels has been consistent, putting forth multiple quality starts over the past few weeks. However, he’s yet to pitch to his expectations in any start this season. Expectations for the 34-year-old are quite high, perhaps unfairly high. You can expect that for a guy with an outstanding track record. Plus, he’s unfortunately the Texas Rangers only hope for an actual ace.

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ST PETERSBURG, FL – APRIL 18: Cole Hamels #35 of the Texas Rangers pitches during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on April 18, 2018 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

A pitcher is deemed an ace as a result of a dominant repertoire, but also a result of a killer “I’m not going to lose this game” attitude. Just look at guys like Max Scherzer and, dare I say it, Justin Verlander. Hamels has been an ace for almost his entire career, and he still is. Though, he needs to be the Rangers ace because he is pitching well and winning, not just by default.

Tonight’s matchup truly is interesting. Hamels is pitching in his 13th big league season and Verlander in his 14th. Verlander is one year older than Hamels. Each has multiple all-star appearances, each has thrown a no-hitter and each has won at least one World Series. Yet, Verlander is pitching better than ever, while Hamels seems to have flatlined.

The comparative accolades are fascinating; however, they are different pitchers. After all, Verlander is a notorious right-handed power pitcher and Hamels is more of a power/craft mix from the left side. Regardless, you can’t question Verlander’s current success over Hamels’.

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The Texas Rangers aren’t asking Cole Hamels to be a better pitcher than Justin Verlander in 2018. They’re just asking him to be a better pitcher than Verlander tonight.

As 2018 history has it, tonight’s outing for Hamels might be dictated early, specifically the first batter he faces. Houston’s leadoff hitter, George Springer, has taken Hamels deep in his first at-bat in each of the two games against the lefty this year.

Home run allowance has been a problem for Hamels against the Astros. He has given up four home runs over 11 2/3 innings vs. them this season. Three of the four were at the expense of Springer. It’s safe to say the Cole Hamels vs. George Springer duel is the one to keep an eye on tonight. The good news is Hamels has allowed only one homer in his last three starts.

Next: Projected lineups for Odor’s return

We’ll see how Hamels performs. The opening game of a series against his team’s biggest rival is one where a true ace would put his team in a position to win. The question is…is Cole Hamels still a true ace?

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