MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Josh Hamilton hasn’t hit very well in the sunshine this season, so Rangers manager Ron Washington planned to give him a rest.
Then Hamilton came into the skipper’s office and talked his way into the lineup, arguing that game times don’t matter in Minnesota’s climate-controlled dome.
Yes, everything is going Hamilton’s way these days. He hit a two-out homer in the 10th inning on Thursday afternoon to lift Texas past the Twins 8-7.
“He’s a good player. If you throw balls across the plate, he’s going to hit them. That was a big home run,” Washington said. “And to the opposite field? Please.”
Hamilton is off to an amazing start in his first two months with the Rangers, who acquired him in offseason trade with Cincinnati for top pitching prospect Edinson Volquez.
His drive into the left-field seats off a hanging full-count slider from Brian Bass (1-1) gave him 12 homers, matching Chicago’s Carlos Quentin for the AL lead.
Hamilton also went 2-for-4 and moved past Minnesota’s Joe Mauer for the best average in the league, .335. Oh, and he has 53 RBIs, too, by far the most in the majors.
“He’s one of those guys you can’t make a mistake to,” Bass said, kicking himself for not keeping the fateful pitch lower in the strike zone as he intended.
More than two-thirds of the schedule remains, so talk of a Triple Crown is premature. But Hamilton is beginning to get comfortable again with his craft, after injuries and drug problems stifled his career for nearly six years and kept him completely out of the game from 2003-05. Last year with the Reds was his first in the majors.
“I didn’t really remember how to prepare,” Hamilton said. “It was different. I learned a lot last year about how my body feels and how to get ready for games. I come in expecting to play every day, so if I come in and see my name not in the lineup, I don’t like it. I want to be in the game and in the lineup unless something’s wrong with me. If I don’t have a crutch or something, I want to be in the lineup.”
More importantly for the Rangers, who have won 17 of their last 26, closer C.J. Wilson pitched a perfect 10th inning for his ninth save after a few rough outings. Texas salvaged a split of the four-game series by collecting 33 hits over the last two contests. The Rangers are batting .343 with nine homers and 50 runs against Minnesota; they’ve met seven times this year.
That all starts with Hamilton.
“He does absolutely everything, and busts his butt everyday,” Wilson said. “I’m just really happy to have such a productive guy in the middle of our lineup. What he’s been doing offensively this year is out of control.”
Carlos Gomez had a homer among his four hits and three RBIs for the Twins, who have lost seven of their last 10 games. Gomez also made a fully extended diving catch of a sinking liner in center for the second straight day.
Rangers starter Vicente Padilla needed 102 pitches to get through five innings, giving up seven hits and two walks while striking out three, but he left with a 4-3 lead.
Chris Shelton’s two-run double in the sixth chased Livan Hernandez, who had another tough time against Texas, which batted around in a four-run first—a rally kick-started by a sacrifice fly from Hamilton.
The Twins tacked on two with bases-loaded walks against Rangers relievers in the sixth, but Morneau flied out to shallow left to leave the bases full.
After Morneau’s tying hit, Delmon Young lined into a double play to lowlight a rough afternoon. One of three Minnesota regulars yet to homer, Young struck out twice and grounded into a bases-loaded double play to end the first inning.
“One more big hit and we would’ve had it,” manager Ron Gardenhire said, adding: “They’re up there trying. Guys are getting after it and rooting for each other.”
One of the six runs given up by Hernandez was unearned, due to a dropped throw by Michael Cuddyer in the first. He walked two and struck out one.
Reliever Matt Guerrier threw away a sacrifice bunt he fielded in the seventh for another error while trying to get the lead runner at third for an error that let the Rangers score their seventh run.
The Twins have nine errors in their last five games.
“Fundamentally, that’s what we’re known for,” Morneau said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do and we haven’t done. It’s pretty ugly.”
With a split, the Rangers didn’t win this series—stopping a streak of seven. That was the longest in the majors this season and matched the second-longest since the move to Texas in 1972. … Hernandez failed to finish six innings for only the second time in 11 starts, both against the Rangers. … In his last 22 games, Gomez is batting .346 with 18 runs scored.