Hamels runs scoreless-innings streak to 21

“Everybody on this team enjoyed the couple days off we had. When you come back, you don’t want to be rusty,” Hamels said. “You don’t want to take anything for granted because these games are just as important as those last couple of games in September.”

The win was the Rangers’ 12th straight over the Royals, moving them back to .500 for the season and two games behind in the American League Wild Card race.

“We are just trying to get in a rhythm,” Hamels said. “We are right where we want to be. That was kind of the plan from the beginning of the season. It didn’t happen that way, but we have a team where if we are comfortable and confident, we can win a lot of ballgames.”

Hamels, in his fourth start since coming off the disabled list, allowed just four hits and a walk while striking out five over 7 2/3 innings. His 21-inning scoreless streak is the longest active in the AL and the longest by a Rangers pitcher since Yovani Gallardo went 33 1/3 scoreless in 2015.

“Kind of getting comfortable, being able to feel confident that I physically feel healthy, and my strength is now at a point where it needs to be, to go longer in the game,” Hamels said. “And just getting the feel for all my pitches.”

Hamels left after giving up a two-out double to Whit Merrifield in the eighth. Leclerc took over and struck out Jorge Bonifacio to end the inning.

Leclerc strikes out Bonifacio Leclerc strikes out Bonifacio

TEX@KC: Leclerc fans Bonifacio to end the inning

Jose Leclerc strikes out Jorge Bonifacio swinging to end the bottom of the 8th inning

After Shin-Soo Choo‘s RBI single put the Rangers ahead in the top of the ninth, Leclerc walked Lorenzo Cain leading off the Royals’ half. Manager Jeff Banister brought in Claudio to face Eric Hosmer, and he fell behind 3-0 in the count. But Claudio came back to strike him out.

“He’s a guy who used to pitch backward [offspeed pitches early in the count],” Hosmer said. “But now he’s got so much confidence early in the count with that sinker, it makes his other breaking pitches that much better.”

Most important, Claudio didn’t panic after falling behind 3-0. Another walk, and the potential winning run would be on base.

“I said throw the fastball in the middle,” Claudio said. “I know my sinker is pretty good so throw it down the middle. That’s it. I was trying to throw it on the corners. I was nibbling so I said relax and do what you have to do.”

Rangers turn two for the win Rangers turn two for the win

TEX@KC: Claudio starts double play, gets the save

Alex Claudio fields Salvador Perez’s grounder and starts a 1-2-3 double play to secure the Rangers’ 1-0 win over the Royals

Claudio then got Salvador Perez on a comebacker to the mound to start a game-inning double play.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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