ARLINGTON, Texas — Roughly a half-hour after the Cubs were handed their second straight loss Sunday evening, Cole Hamels stood at his locker and faced the music.
He was presented an opportunity to at least partially blame home plate umpire James Hoye for the big fourth inning that helped swing the game in the Rangers favor, but Hamels didn't take it.
Instead of blaming the questionable calls, the 35-year-old veteran was accountable and took responsibility for the loss.
With a runner on first, two out and the Cubs holding a 4-1 lead, Hamels walked Logan Forsythe on a full count pitch that was somehow called a ball (left image below) and then wound up walking Jeff Mathis with another curious call mixed in:
That loaded the bases for Rangers leadoff hitter Delino DeShields, who battled to a full count and then took Hamels deep to left for a go-ahead grand slam.
Hamels wasn't about to let Hoye shoulder the blame.
"I don't think that really needs to be the focus," Hamels said. "When you're able to pitch and you get guys out, you have to be able to establish strikes and you have to be consistent and you have to keep attacking the zone. I got to the bottom of the order and I let it get away from me.
"In that situation with Delino, it was coming down to — you don't want to walk a guy. It's something that we focused on a lot during spring — not doing it and making guys earn the base. Obviously Delino did, but it was falling behind and not executing when I needed to.
"The situation can change. When you attack down in the zone, you give yourself a better chance to get groundballs, especially with the type of hitters they had. You can get some groundballs here. I wasn't able to do that. When you build momentum for them, that's when the mistakes happen and that's when they capitalize."
DeShields' grand slam gave the Rangers a 5-4 lead and while the Cubs bounced back a couple innings later, the bullpen was hit hard again and the Cubs wound up on the wrong end of an 11-10 rubber match.
Many Cubs fans will point to the bullpen imploding as the main culprit, and that's fair to do so. But Hamels was focusing on his own lack of execution in the fourth inning, unable to hold a 4-0 lead his offense had given him.
"It's the disappointment of letting that inning get away from itself," Hamels said. "I can't walk guys. ... Sooner or later, I finally had to throw a pitch down the middle because I'm not about to walk a guy in in a bases-loaded situation. Delino obviously knew what he was looking for and he executed and came away the victor. I have to not put myself in that situation where I have to then come with something that's pretty predictable."
So it wasn't the egregious missed call where Hoye gave Forsythe a free pass instead of an inning-ending strikeout?
"You can't focus on it like that's what dictated the game," Hamels said. "It's the fact that those 3 walks pretty much moved the lineup, gave them momentum and obviously created a big inning for them."
The Cubs scored 28 runs in the three games in Texas, but come away with only 1 win. They plated 16 runs in the last two contests and wound up 0-2.
That's not the way this team wanted to start out the season after a tough finish to the 2018 campaign and all the talk of "urgency" and "edge" this winter.
Still, the offense was a big takeaway, and that's where Hamels kept bringing the focus back to.
"The amount of times we fell behind in the game and we climbed right back, you have to give them credit because they fought tooth and nail to get runs," Hamels said. "They got guys on, they were starting off the inning with a guy on and no outs. We were able to manufacture [runs].
"I think that's a real good positive we're taking away from this week is knowing that these guys are going to come out and they're gonna put up runs. For us pitchers, it's basically to get those shutdown innings. When we're able to establish that and get into a sort of rhythm, these games are going to be pretty entertaining for us and they're gonna come out more on our side."