ARLINGTON – Weeks don’t come much tougher than the one Josh Hamilton is having, but the All-Star slugger has a way of coming through in the clutch.
The Rangers were in the market for a clutch play with a runner on first and two outs in the bottom of the ninth Saturday with Texas trailing by one. Hamilton delivered with a mammoth, 435-foot home run to right field to give the Rangers their third walk-off win of the year.
“It’s been an up and down, rollercoaster-type of emotional weekend,” Hamilton said. “With everything that happened to Mr. Stone and the Stone family, obviously I’m still thinking about them and praying for them and grieving about the whole situation. Then for something like that to happen tonight, it just takes you from one extreme to the other.”
It was Hamilton’s second career walk-off home run. The other came exactly three years ago to the day, July 9, 2008.
His manager joked the outfielder could have put a little more behind the homer.
“I think he missed just a hair of it,” Washington said.
Hamilton finished the game 4-for-5, including three extra-base hits and three RBI. That gave him 13 RBI in nine games in July and 42 RBI in the 42 games Hamilton has played since returning from the disabled list May 23.
“That guy is awesome,” said Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba. “That’s all I can say. He’s amazing.”
The Rangers entered the bottom of the ninth down one run before a quick ground out and a fly out left Texas with one more opportunity to change their fate.
Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus hit a ground ball towards second base and began sprinting towards first. Thanks to a bad throw, Andrus came into the bag safely before accidentally smashing into first baseman Connor Jackson.
“When you’re down by one, and you’ve got a big boy [like Hamilton] with the way he’s been hitting lately, I’m not trying to do too much,” Andrus said. “Just get on base.”
That brought up Hamilton. The Rangers hadn’t won in more than a year (June 15, 2010) when behind with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
That didn’t matter when A’s closer Andrew Bailey left a 95-mph fastball in the strike zone for Hamilton.
“I figured they would try to make me chase – throw me heaters away and try to get me to roll over it, type of thing; kind of feed off the adrenaline of the situation,” Hamilton said. “From looking at the replay, he was set up away right there and missed in. It’s just about being ready to hit right there.”
Lewis rebounds from rough second to keep TX in game:
Texas starter Colby Lewis pitched five strong innings Saturday, but unfortunately he was in the game for six.
The 31-year-old righty gave up four runs in the top of the second inning, though he faced the minimum in four of the six innings he pitched and finished with nine strikeouts.
“They worked him pretty good there [in the second,] and they put some stuff together and put some runs on the board,” Washington said. “But then he came out in the third inning and he started hitting his spots and using his breaking ball.”
Lewis struck out two batters in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings.
He left with the game tied 5-5, just his third no decision in 18 starts this year.
“It’s just so hot out there, once he got past the sixth inning, we just decided to go to the bullpen,” Washington said.
The skipper said Lewis showed some grit in not letting the one poor inning sink the start.
“I think Colby deserves a lot of credit, because he could have gave in, but he didn’t,” Washington said. “He’s a warrior also.”
Rangers riding six-game streak:
With the wild win Saturday, the Rangers have now won six consecutive games. That ties the club’s longest win streak of the season (April 1-6) and moved the Rangers to nine games above .500 for the first time this year.
After the game multiple players said it felt like the team was coming into form.
“We feel like that’s our team,” Elvis Andrus said. “That’s the way we use to play last year. We play pitch-by-pitch and inning-by-inning and we don’t take anything for granted right now.”
Yorvit Torrealba said the come-from-behind win (which was Texas’ biggest comeback win of 2011) was a huge lift for the team.
“Y’know, we never give up,” Torrealba said. “Even when we were down [5-1,] we were able to have that big inning to tie the game. Then they come back and score one, but we never give up. We keep pushing and pushing and battling hopefully to win the ballgame, then we do.”
Washington said he’s seen some of the magic the Rangers showed last year in their American League championship run.
“I think the last six days, we’ve started playing the way we’re capable of playing and sometimes during the season, that happens,” Washington said. “I wish we could have turned it on sooner but that’s why it’s a six-month season. And I don’t think they lack any confidence in that clubhouse.”