Hamilton seeks to lead the Rangers to a sweep of the Oakland Athletics when the AL West rivals wrap up their three-game series Sunday at McAfee Coliseum.
Texas (54-50) trailed Oakland (52-51) by one-half game for second place in the West entering this series, but is now guaranteed to leave the Bay Area ahead of the A’s in the standings. The Rangers have also pulled within 5 1/2 games of Boston for the wild-card lead.
They’ve done it with Hamilton leading a powerful offense. The center fielder has a major league-leading 103 RBIs in 100 games. After hitting a two-run homer and a double in Friday’s 14-6 victory, Hamilton hit a three-run shot—his 24th of the season—Saturday as Texas cruised to a 9-4 win.
“That ball was hit well,” Hamilton said of his home run in Saturday’s game. “I don’t know if I can hit a ball much better.”
Oakland certainly doesn’t care to see Hamilton hit the ball any better. He is batting .327 (16-for-49) with four homers and 14 RBIs in 11 games versus the Athletics this season—eight of them wins for Texas. Hamilton has homered in each of his last four games versus the A’s.
Thanks largely to their top slugger, the Rangers now have a chance for their first three-game sweep at Oakland since May 2-4, 2005.
Rookie Eric Hurley (1-1, 3.57 ERA) comes off the disabled list Sunday looking to help Texas accomplish the sweep.
The 22-year-old right-hander has been on the DL since July 8 due to a strained left hamstring. Prior to the injury, he was fairly impressive in his first four major league outings, allowing two runs or fewer in the last three.
Hurley earned his first win in his final start before the injury, limiting Philadelphia to one run and five hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-1 home win on June 29. This will be his first time facing an opponent from the AL West.
He’ll be opposed by Oakland’s Dana Eveland (7-7, 3.65), who allowed two hits to Hamilton, including a double, in a 6-4 defeat at Texas on May 10. Overall in that outing, Eveland gave up three runs and six hits over six innings and got charged with the loss.
The left-hander has failed to last through the sixth inning in any of his three most recent starts. He lost at Tampa Bay on Monday, surrendering four runs, seven hits and four walks in five innings of a 4-0 defeat. Perhaps most alarming, Eveland served up two home runs—half the total from his first 19 starts.
Center fielder Ryan Sweeney, whose .309 batting average leads Oakland, did not play Saturday due to a sore left pinky, although manager Bob Geren said Sweeney could have pinch-hit.
“His finger was feeling sore,” Geren said on the Athletics’ official Web site. “It got roughed up (Friday) night.”
Oakland has dropped three straight games and nine of 10, and is in danger of falling to .500 for the first time since April 8, when it was 4-4.