The rookie right-hander turned the shutout tables on the Cleveland Indians by pitching into the eighth inning to lead Texas to a 5-0 victory Wednesday night.
Hunter (5-2) faced Cleveland for the first time, but said he was well prepared and just followed the game plan.
"They gave me a sheet of paper that said they didn't hit off-speed stuff that well, so we went with that," said Hunter, who gave up six hits and struck out five without a walk over a career-high 7 2/3 innings. "Then we attacked with the fastball when we got behind in the count. It was all about preparation. I just tried to do what I was told."
Josh Hamilton had three hits and drove in two runs for Texas, which remained 1 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL wild card. The Rangers bounced back from a 5-0 loss to Cleveland on Tuesday with their league-leading eighth shutout.
"Tommy was tough," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "He had everything going, a good changeup, fastball, and was spotting it."
Hunter shut down a Cleveland offense that hit .304 while averaging 6.4 runs in winning 12 of its previous 17 games, but was shut out for the fifth time this season. The right-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts. Since July 3, the 23-year-old is 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA in seven starts.
"I was very impressed by him," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He threw his fastball where he wanted. Early in the game he was utilizing his breaking ball and then he mixed in his changeup later."
C.J. Wilson came on in the eighth after Grady Sizemore singled for his third hit and went to second as right fielder Hamilton bobbled the ball for an error. The left-hander struck out Asdrubal Cabrera to end the inning, then worked a perfect ninth, striking out two more.
"Hunter threw everything but the kitchen sink to Sizemore," Washington said.
Hunter said he took that at-bat as a challenge since Sizemore had already singled twice.
"I wanted that out," Hunter said. "That's the first time since I've been up here that I've used four pitches in one at-bat. I threw four quality pitches. He fought one off and got another hit. That's why he's a great hitter."
Hamilton's two-run double off Fausto Carmona (2-7) gave Texas a 2-0 lead in the third. Carmona hit one batter and walked another during the rally.
"Ham's at-bat turned the game for us, gave us a cushion," Washington said.
Hamilton is 6 for 10 in his career against Carmona and said he does feel comfortable against him.
"Every pitch he throws moves so much that you can't try to pull him," Hamilton said. "He threw a sinker away and I went with it.
"Against guys with nasty stuff, I keep my focus. I look at it as a challenge. I guess I've got work to do against some of those other guys."
Carmona allowed two runs and five hits over six innings. He dropped to 0-4 in four home starts against Texas. The right-hander has a 2.65 ERA in three no-decisions since being recalled from the minors on July 31. A 19-game winner in 2007, he went 1-2 with an 11.57 ERA in five previous outings before being sent down June 5.
"I'm not feeling any frustration," Carmona said. "I want to win, but I'm happy with the way I'm pitching. I'm keeping my team in the game. I'm giving us a chance to win."
The Rangers signed RHP Nick McBride, a fifth-round draft choice out of Ragsdale H.S. in Lewisville, N.C. ... Texas OF Nelson Cruz missed his eighth consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. Washington said Cruz won't be cleared by the training staff until he completes baserunning drills. ... Washington said 2B Ian Kinsler (strained left hamstring) is scheduled to play nine innings Thursday at Double-A Frisco and will come off the DL on Friday if he has no setbacks. ... Cleveland claimed LHP R.J. Swindle off waivers from Tampa Bay and optioned him to Triple-A Columbus. ... RHP Jose Veras, outrighted by the Indians on Tuesday, accepted his assignment to Columbus.