BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGTON, Texas – Josh Hamilton came off the bench to slam a double into left center field that scored the tying and winning runs in the Rangers’ 4-3 victory over the Red Sox Sunday afternoon. The win was the Rangers’ third in a row and gave them their fourth straight series win, although just their first at home this season.
The win also moved their record over .500 at 26-25 for the first time since June 6, 2014. Texas has won 10 of their past 12 games to thrust the team into the West Division title consideration. They are now in third place trailing the division leading Astros by five games. They are one game behind second place Los Angeles and 1.5 games ahead of fourth place Seattle.
Hamilton ostensibly had the day off after starting all six games since being activated last Monday, but the off day lasted until the ninth inning. A Gatoraid bath followed the game as he was interviewed on FOX Sports Southwest. For the series, Hamilton hit two home runs and drove in five runs to thank the adoring fans that have made him feel at home.
Game one of the series on Thursday marked his return to Globe Life Ballpark as a Ranger. There was for sure angst over the fan reception he would receive after his rowdy departure from the team following the 2012 season. That was one of the reasons the Rangers activated him with the team on the road. He also came down with a summer cold, but played Thursday anyway.
In the end, all the worry was for naught. The fans welcomed Josh back with open arms. He walked to the plate with one out in the second inning to a standing ovation.
He told MLB.com’s T. R. Sullivan afterward, “It was awesome. It was a good feeling. I appreciated it a lot. To have the fans cheering and standing meant a lot. It brought back good memories. Getting support from the fans makes you want to compete more and give them everything you’ve got.”
He had gone just 1-11 in Cleveland, but wasted no time Thursday night, whacking the first pitch he saw on a line into the right field corner for a double. He singled in the ninth inning to drive home the Rangers’ lone run on the night as Texas lost 5-1.
Nick Martinez was the Rangers hard luck starting and losing pitcher on the night. He gave up six hits and was constantly in trouble, but his defense turned three double plays behind him to hold Boston to two runs over seven innings. He took the loss, his first of the year to drop to 4-1.
Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez made his Major League debut and shut down the Rangers on two hits over 7-2/3rds innings. Boston’s intention was for Rodriguez to make a spot start, but after this performance, Rodriguez will stay for a while. He’s 1-0.
Josh said he felt even worse Friday with his cold, but with the results, he might want to keep the cold the rest of the season. He lined a 2-2 pitch into the right field seats to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the second inning. His next time up to bat, he hit almost an identical line drive off Boston starter, knuckleballer Steven Wright. That solo shot gave Texas a 3-2 lead. Hamilton also scored a third run later after impressively working a walk in the eighth inning after getting down 0-2 in the count. Plate discipline is not Josh’s forte, so the walk to some was as impressive as the two home runs.
Yovani Gallardo (5-6) was the winning pitcher in Texas’ 7-4 win. He gave up two runs, only one of which was earned over six innings on four hits and three walks. It dropped his ERA under four at 3.88, in perhaps his best start as a Ranger. Shawn Tolleson pitched the ninth inning to earn his sixth save.
Game three on Saturday may have been the most meaningful to Ranger fans. Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez, the Rangers’ first round draft pick out of Oral Roberts University in 2013, made his Major League debut. Ross Detwiler had been the Rangers’ fifth starter until he hit the disabled list a couple of weeks ago, but Detwiler was told as he began his minor league rehab assignments that he would be a reliever when he returns. I.E., the fifth starter spot was wide open for Gonzalez, and he made the most of the opportunity.
Gonzalez gave up no hits through the first five innings. David “Big Papi” Ortiz led off Boston’s sixth with a double to break up the no-hitter. Gonzalez noted later that he was flattered that Ortiz clapped for him and gave him a nod after reaching second base.
Gonzalez gave up another hit and recorded two more outs before manager Jeff Banister relieved him. When Banister reached the mound, he didn’t immediately take the ball and dismiss Gonzalez. He instead talked with him advising to enjoy the moment. When he finally signaled to the bullpen, Gonzalez left the field to a hearty round of applause with many in attendance standing.
Texas won the game 8-0, the team’s first shutout of the year. Gonzalez (1-0) was the winning pitcher. Wade Mily (4-5), Boston’s most reliable starter this year, was the losing pitcher.
Interestingly, the offense did not come from the middle of the batting order. Three, four and five hitters Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Hamilton combined to go 1-12, with the hit being a single from Fielder.
Delino DeShields continues to impress at the top of the order. He racked up three hits and both scored and drove in a run. The bottom three in the batting order, Leonys Martin, Robinson Chirinos and Hanser Alberto each drove in a pair of runs. Texas had a 13 hit attack, but only three went for extra bases – doubles from Elvis Andrus, Martin and Chirinos.
With a two games to one lead going into Sunday, the Rangers had the chance to win their first series at home this season. It was a game that both teams scratched and clawed for runs. Wandy Rodriguez pitched well enough to win, giving up all three runs, only two of which were earned, on nine hits over 5-2/3rds innings.
The win however went to reliever Ross Ohlendorf, who gave up a hit and a walk in the ninth inning before retiring the Red Sox. He’s 1-0. Former Ranger and current Boston closer Koji Uehara was Hamilton’s ninth inning victim. It was Uehara’s second blown save and the loss moved his record to 2-2 for the season.
It was a costly day for Texas however. Adrian Beltre sustained a sprained thumb sliding into second base and will miss a minimum of two weeks. Four stitches were required to close the laceration. There was no immediate announcement as to a roster move to replace Beltre. There will certainly be fan interest in the Rangers bringing up top prospect Joey Gallo, Frisco’s third baseman that has hit nine home runs already this season.
The series closed out May for Texas, which was clearly better than April. They were 19-11, which was 12 more wins than April. Prince Fielder set a new team record for hits in the month of May with 46. (Josh Hamilton holds the Ranger record for most hits in a month with 49 in June, 2010.)
The Red Sox leave with a 22-29 record, making them one of the most disappointing teams in the American League. They aren’t scoring runs, pushing across just 12 in the series, and they committed six errors in the final two games. It was obvious in this series that they are feeling the heat. The Boston media reported increasing crankiness from manager John Farrell, who may be on the hot seat for keeping his job. Red Sox players constantly argued with umpires over called strikes throughout the series.
The Rangers are off Monday, and then close out the home stand with a three game series against the White Sox on Tuesday. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Colby Lewis (4-3) on Tuesday, Nick Martinez (4-1) on Wednesday, and Yovani Gallardo (5-6) on Thursday night. The White Sox counter with Jeff Samardzija (4-2), Chris Sale (4-2) and Carlos Rodon (1-0).
* ESPN’s baseball correspondent, Buster Olney, published his weekly team power ratings, and the Rangers are now ranked 10th!
* 20% of Boston’s roster for the series were former Rangers. Mike Napoli and Carlos Peguera are position players that saw action for the Red Sox. Koji Uehara, Alexi Ogando and Robbie Ross, Jr. were in the Sox bullpen, and all three pitched in the series.
* The official paid attendance for Saturday’s game was 42,831, the second largest crowd of the season next to opening day.
* Alex Gonzalez rounded up 32 tickets for friends and relatives to watch his Major League debut on Saturday.
* Infielder Tommy Field was designated for assignment, and Hanser Alberto was added to the roster. Alberto has predominantly played shortstop in the minor leagues, but will play mostly second base for Texas. He is regarded as a superior defensive player, but this year, his offense began to blossom at AAA Round Rock where he was hitting .302 in 42 games when he was called up.
* Matt Harrison has been cleared to make his first minor league rehab start Wednesday night for Round Rock. Ross Detwiler made his first minor league rehab appearance Saturday night, and completed two innings for Frisco allowing no runs on one hit, while striking out three batters. Neftali Feliz threw his first bullpen session Sunday.
* Delino DeShields and Leonys Martin share the American League lead with four bunt hits each on the season.