And this season too.
Eight games out of first place after Hamels made his Texas debut Aug. 1, the Rangers are back in the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
Texas (88-74) clinched its sixth AL West title on the final day of the regular season when Hamels pitched his first complete game for the Rangers, a three-hitter by the left-hander that general manager Jon Daniels described Monday as a ''get-on-my-back kind of start.''
Shin-Soo Choo, with an incredible closing stretch of his own, said Hamels ''showed why he's a great pitcher.''
The late surge by Texas included winning Hamels' last starts. The clincher Sunday over the Angels also eliminated Los Angeles for the playoff chase.
Texas, which lost ace Yu Darvish to Tommy John surgery before the season even started, opens the AL division series Thursday at AL East champion Toronto.
''As soon as we had Cole, we weren't thinking about next year,'' said shortstop Elvis Andrus, the Rangers' most-tenured position player and a member of their only two World Series teams in 2010 and 2011. ''We were thinking now we have the guy that we need with Darvish out. A guy that has been there.''
Imagine having Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, and Darvish in the rotation together?
That will be the case when Darvish returns at some point next season, since Hamels is no short-term rental like Cliff Lee was for Texas in 2010. Lee was acquired in a midseason trade before the Rangers went to their first World Series, then left as a free agent.
Hamels was coming off a no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs when Philadelphia traded him to Texas. The lefty is signed through 2018 with a club option for 2019.
''I liked this team a lot,'' Hamels said. ''Guys were coming off injuries, so everybody was going to get healthy. I thought it was good timing. The type of moves that Texas made with the bullpen guys, and getting (Mike) Napoli and a bunch of outfield guys, we really did feel comfortable and we knew we could do something special.''
Left-handed reliever Jake Diekman came with Hamels from the Phillies on July 31, the same day Texas acquired right-handed reliever Sam Dyson from Miami. Diekman has a 2.08 ERA in 26 games for the Rangers, and Dyson a 1.15 ERA in 31 appearances.
A week later, they re-acquired Napoli, who had 10 RBIs in the Rangers' 2011 World Series and whose presence has already brought back chants of ''Nap-o-li!, Nap-o-li!'' He was part of Boston's championship team in 2013.
Choo, hitting .096 at the end of April, has reached base in 53 of the last 55 games and hit .397 with 25 runs and 16 walks the last 23 games. The right fielder goes into the postseason with a season-high .276 batting average.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre, who hit the go-ahead homer Sunday against the Angels, is batting a season-best .287. He has 33 RBIs the past 22 games, hitting .427 (38 of 89) in that span even with a sore thumb and index finger on his left hand.
The Rangers took over the division lead for the first time with a win over Houston on Sept. 15 in the 144th game of the season, overtaking the Astros with a four-game sweep.
''That's about our players, and our coaching staff, they just flat-out got it done,'' Daniels said. ''We did whatever we could do to support them, and then we stood back and watched. And it was a lot of fun being a fan the last six to eight weeks.''