Hamels' 12-game win streak ends as Pirates top Rangers 9-1
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Clint Hurdle and his Pittsburgh players and coaches tipped their caps as a show of respect toward Jeff Banister before the Texas manager's first game against the organization he called home for 29 years.
Then the Pirates went to work.
Jonathon Niese outpitched Cole Hamels with six strong innings, ending the left-hander's career-best winning streak at 12 games in Pittsburgh's 9-1 interleague victory over the Rangers on Friday night.
''I've been working hard between games, and it's been showing in games,'' said Niese, who has a 2.45 ERA in his last four starts. ''I know I have it in me, but in my sides in between games I was able to work on the mechanical part of it.''
Andrew McCutchen had one of four home runs for the Pirates, who won their fifth straight and spoiled Banister's first game against them after leaving the only franchise he had known - as a player, coach and instructor at all levels - to become Texas manager last season.
''It's a game,'' Banister said after the loss, his mood not quite as jolly as during batting practice when he shared hugs, handshakes and laughs all around. ''National anthem is over, it was ready to play. It's still another club. Good club. Gotta play well. That's it.''
Hamels (5-1) gave up eight hits and six runs - five earned - in 4 2/3 innings, his shortest outing since the start before throwing a no-hitter in his final appearance for Philadelphia last July 25. He came to the Rangers in a trading deadline deal six days later.
Niese (5-2) threw five shutout innings before Adrian Beltre's leadoff homer in the sixth. The left-hander scattered seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts.
''He's working and developing,'' Hurdle said. ''The delivery's repeating itself. He's physically getting in a good place.''
Hamels was trying to set the Rangers' franchise record for consecutive victories, a mark he will share with Bobby Witt from 1990, while also giving the first glimpse of the potential top of the Texas rotation a night before right-hander Yu Darvish's return from Tommy John surgery.
Instead, he gave up two homers, walked two and hit a pair of batters in his first loss in eight decisions at Globe Life Park and just his second regular-season defeat since joining the Rangers. Hamels had the second-longest winning streak in the majors behind Jake Arietta of the Cubs.
''If you pitch long enough, you're going to have games like this,'' Hamels said after allowing a season high in runs. ''You're going to have good games, bad games, a ton of games in between. You just kind of move forth and try to plug away again.''
Jung Ho Kang, Pittsburgh's designated hitter, hit an opposite-field three-run homer to right in a five-run fifth that blossomed when six of the last eight hitters faced by Hamels reached base after a throwing error by first baseman Mitch Moreland.
Starling Marte, who had three hits along with David Freese, and Gregory Polanco also homered for the Pirates.
STILL BOOING FORMER BIRD
Freese is on his second team and now five years removed from the ninth-inning triple that tied Game 6 of the 2011 World Series for St. Louis when the Rangers were a strike away from winning the championship. The Cardinals won the final two games for the title. Texas fans still remember. They booed Freese each time the Pirates third baseman came to the plate.
Kang matched his season high with three RBIs and has homered in consecutive road games. He has six homers overall. ... All four of Pittsburgh's games with at least four homers this season have come on the road.
Pirates: Marte was checked out after getting hit on his left foot by a pitch from Hamels in the fifth. He hopped part of the way to first base after deciding to stay in, but then sprinted to third on a single from Josh Harrison.
Rangers: CF Ian Desmond and RF Nomar Mazara stayed in the game after a nasty collision in the gap on a fly ball from Kang that fell for a single. Mazara stayed down longer than Desmond, who did a flying twist as he fell but popped up quickly.
Pirates: RHP Juan Nicasio (4-3, 4.46) had his last start cut short by a rain delay after one inning. He won his only career start against the Rangers while with Colorado, allowing one run in five innings with five walks in a 12-1 victory for the Rockies.
Rangers: Darvish makes his first major league start since Aug. 9, 2014. Darvish missed the end of the 2014 season with right elbow inflammation and had more issues while making just one spring appearance last year before undergoing elbow surgery. He had a 0.90 ERA in five rehab outings this month.