Real or not? Cole Hamels a concern for Rangers, Chris Sale an All-Star certainty

You've probably heard that there have been a lot of home runs in 2017. In fact, this month has a chance to pass May of 2000 as the month with the most home runs ever hit.

So this post is about ... not home runs. The Texas Rangers sent Cole Hamels to the bump against the Cleveland Indians for his first start since April 26 after missing two months with an oblique injury. The Rangers pounded the usually reliable Carlos Carrasco and led 9-2 entering the bottom of the fourth. Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats & Information reports on the Indians' odds at this point:

"Entering today, teams were 2-240 this season when trailing by seven-plus runs at any point in the game. There were two such wins in the majors all of last season (teams were 2-442). There haven't been more than three such wins in a season across the majors since 2012, when teams went 4-362 in such games."

You know what came next. The Indians scored a run in the fourth. They would knock Hamels from the game in the fifth with a single, two walks and an infield single. Hamels was at 92 pitches and Jeff Banister understandably did not want to stretch him too far in his first game back. Dario Alvarez came on, some bad stuff happened for the Rangers and it was 9-7 at the end of the inning. The Indians would add five more runs in the sixth off Tanner Scheppers and Alex Claudio on five singles and two walks and then score three more in the seventh for a 15-9 victory.

They did all that without hitting a home run, the first team win by six-plus runs after trailing by seven since April 21, 2012, when the Yankees rallied from a 9-0 deficit to beat the Red Sox 15-9. How often does a team score 15 runs without a home run? The Mets actually did it earlier this season against the Braves, but of the 211 times since 2010 that a team scored 15 runs, this was just the 12th without a homer (5.7 percent).

Anyway, that was cool, but my takeaway from this game is Hamels and what he'll give the Rangers the rest of the season. He had four walks and just one strikeout, and it was his first game back and maybe he was rusty and all that, but even before the injury, he had just 15 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings. For the season, his swing-and-miss rate is 15.9 percent, down from 27.2 percent last year. That could be a small sample size thing or big red-alert button screaming, "Uh-oh."

Hamels had a 3.32 ERA last season, but it was kind of a different Hamels. His game plan was often predicated on not throwing strikes, as his percentage of pitches in the zone (usually just over 50 percent) fell to 45.6 percent. It worked because batters were still chasing 33 percent of his pitches out of the zone. This year, that chase rate is down to 21.8 percent. Five percent fewer pitches in the zone might not seem like much, but that's about 10 pitches over a game -- and if batters aren't chasing, that's going to lead to bad stuff for Hamels, such as falling behind in the count or more walks (his walk rate last season was a career high, and it's even higher so far in 2017).

Again, it's early with all this. But I'd be a little concerned if I were a Rangers fan.

Plays of the day. Seems like we haven't seen much of Javier Baez in 2017 (although you can see pretty much all of him in the upcoming Body Issue), so here he is making two great plays:

How good is Baez in the field? From Kenneth Woolums of ESPN Stats & Information: Since the start of last season, Baez has 21 defensive runs saved, tied for sixth most among infielders in MLB entering Monday. He's tied with Manny Machado, who has played over 500 more innings in the field in that time.

Great ending in that Cubs-Nationals game, as well. The Nationals cut a 5-0 deficit to 5-4 with four runs in the ninth and had Ryan Zimmerman up with runners at second and third against Wade Davis (following a wild pitch), but Zimmerman struck out swinging on a breaking ball in the dirt.

Chris Sale continues to make All-Star pitch. Sale started last year's All-Star Game with the White Sox. After allowing one run in 6 1/3 innings during a 4-1 victory over the Twins on Monday, he is certainly the favorite to start for the AL once again, this time as a member of the Red Sox. The last pitcher to start two years in a row was Randy Johnson in 2000 and 2001 for the Diamondbacks. Others to do it in the divisional era (since 1969): Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Dave Stieb and Jim Palmer.

Cody Bellinger note of the day. He fanned three times in a loss to the Angels, his 10th game with at least three strikeouts. Since his debut, only Joey Gallo has more three-strikeout games with 11. I don't think Dodgers fans are complaining.

Signed, sealed and delivering. Royce Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft by the Twins, made his professional debut Monday in the Gulf Coast League and homered in his first at-bat:

Here's hoping that's the first of many for Lewis.