ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—Josh Hamilton almost made a spectacular running catch to start the game. Other than that, he was perfect.
After his near-catch in the first inning, when he reached over his head in deep center to get the ball in his glove before it popped out when he tumbled to the ground, Hamilton went 5-for-5 with two long home runs. He also drove in five runs for the Texas Rangers in their wild 16-8 victory over the Houston Astros in the Lone Star Series opener Friday night.
“My single favorite part? After I caught that ball, landed and dropped it, 5-for-5 felt good,” Hamilton said with a smile, working his shoulder for emphasis. “I’ve been hurting ever since.”
Hamilton’s second homer, a three-run shot off the facade of the second deck of seats in right, gave Texas an 8-2 lead in the fourth.
After Houston rallied to tie it, Ian Kinsler drew a two-out walk in the seventh, stole second base and came home on Michael Young’s single, scoring on a close play that led to the ejection of Astros manager Cecil Cooper after he came out to argue the call.
“Kinsler made a heck of a slide,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “And by the way, he was safe.”
Kinsler slid in just ahead of the tag by catcher J.R. Towles after a throw from right fielder Hunter Pence. Cooper quickly emerged from the dugout to argue with plate umpire Angel Campos. Crew chief Angel Hernandez soon joined the discussion, and ejected Cooper.
Replays showed that Kinsler’s foot slid across the edge of home plate just before Towles applied the tag.
“I thought they missed the call. I thought the tag was there,” Cooper said. “The ump finally asked me if I wanted to leave and I told him he’d better do something because I wasn’t leaving.”
Hamilton followed with a triple into the right-field corner off Wesley Wright (3-1) to make it 10-8 and increase his major league-leading RBI total to 49. Hamilton’s five hits and five RBIs were both career highs, as were the 13 total bases that fell one short of Jose Canseco’s franchise record set in 1994.
“It was a great night. That’s why you play the game, right there,” Hamilton said. “It doesn’t happen all the time. When it does, it’s like being a terrible golfer and making a hole-in-one or hitting a great shot.”
Plus, he did have a nifty defensive play, with a running catch on Darin Erstad’s flyball near the wall to end the fourth.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Murphy, Chris Shelton and Young also homered for the Rangers (21-22), who have won 14 of 20 since coming home from a miserable trip three weeks ago with the worst record in the majors.
Houston has been the NL’s best team during that stretch, and still has won 17 of 24.
The Rangers added six runs in the eighth, when Murphy and Shelton had solo homers before Kinsler tripled off the left-field wall and Young homered. Hamilton then drew a walk in his final at-bat.
Berkman went 2-for-4 to stretch his hitting streak to 15 games—a span in which he is hitting .542 (32-for-59).
Hamilton got started with a single and scored in a three-run first, minutes after his near-catch. He led off the third with a 415-foot homer to right-center, then Saltalamacchia homered leading off the fourth. Hamilton’s second homer chased Astros starter Shawn Chacon.
But Houston rallied with five runs in the fifth and another in the sixth to tie it, getting Chacon off the hook and into the record book. The right-hander set a major league mark by making his ninth consecutive start without a decision to begin the season.
After getting the 8-2 lead, Rangers starter Sidney Ponson allowed the first two batters in the fifth to reach, on a single and his fielding error, before a wild pitch. Darin Erstad hit an RBI double to make it 8-7, but on that play Carlos Lee was thrown out at the plate to the end the inning.
The Astros caught up at 8-all on Kazuo Matsui’s RBI single in the sixth.
“There weren’t a lot of positives tonight, but we can score runs,” Berkman said.
Houston was coming off an 8-7 victory at San Francisco, overcoming a six-run deficit for its biggest comeback since 2000.
Texas had the bases loaded in the sixth after shortstop Miguel Tejada dropped a throw on a force play at second. But the inning ended when Pence, who grew up in Arlington, made a lunging catch on the warning track.
“I thought Pence’s catch was going to put us over the hump,” Cooper said. “We were really feeling good about ourselves at that point. I jumped up and down and ran down to give him a hug.”
Michael Bourn snapped an 0-for-20 slump with a single in the Astros’ sixth. He added his majors-best 18th stolen base, and still hasn’t been caught this season. … Rangers 3B Hank Blalock (partially torn left hamstring) will likely head to extended spring training in Arizona as part of his rehabilitation. He was scheduled to play at Double-A Frisco on Thursday night but was scratched from the lineup when his hamstring tightened up. … Astros 3B Ty Wigginton started after missing three games with sore ribs from getting hit by a pitch Monday.