Botts' bat helps Rangers down Royals
Left fielder goes 3-for-4 with three RBIs; Texas evens series
ARLINGTON -- Jason Botts still has a ways to go, but he certainly needed a game like this.The return of Hank Blalock is making it much more competitive for playing time and hitting around .200 is not going to be conducive to getting your name on the lineup card. Botts, in the lineup for the first time since Saturday, came through with three hits and two RBIs in helping the Rangers outlast the Royals, 9-8, at Rangers Ballpark on Tuesday. Botts came into the game hitting .202, but has spent the past couple of days working with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on adjusting his batting stance. It paid off for him and the Rangers on a rainy Tuesday night. "He needed a game like this for Jason Botts," manager Ron Washington said. "Tonight, he showed some bat speed and he stayed on the ball. He hit one down the left-field line for a double and another down the right-field line. It's good for his confidence and hopefully it will get him rolling." Much of the game was played in a steady rain or light drizzle that reduced the announced crowd of 18,892 down to maybe a couple thousand when it was over. But those who stayed around saw C.J. Wilson nail down his 11th save and the Rangers win for the eighth time in their last 10 games. Ian Kinsler also had three hits to give him a 10-game hitting streak and Brad Wilkerson and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit home runs in the Rangers' five-run first inning. Wilkerson now has a club-leading 20 on the season. The Rangers led 6-1 after two innings, but starter Kevin Millwood couldn't hold it. Instead, the Royals came back to tie it and the Rangers had to regain the lead with two in the seventh. Botts had an RBI double in the first, a double in the fifth and an RBI single in the seventh. The three hits tied a season high. He also had three hits in seven at-bats in the Rangers' 30-3 victory over the Orioles on Aug. 22. Since then, though, he was just 4-for-30 -- all singles -- in 10 games before Tuesday night. So, Jaramillo has been working with Botts on his approach. Jaramillo has taken away the big leg kick that made Botts successful at Triple-A and replaced it with a "toe tap." Both are basically timing mechanisms, but the toe-tap is quicker. Michael Young uses a similar approach. "The last couple of weeks, I haven't had a strong base," Botts said. "I lost feel and control and have been fighting it. Next thing you know, I'm not seeing the ball as well. The last couple of days, I've had some time off to work on building a better base, and the toe-tap has helped me. It was a little better today, but it's not close to where I want to be." Botts started in left field and that may be where he has to get his playing time for awhile. Blalock is off the disabled list, but is limited to designated hitter duty until he's ready to play the field. That isn't going to be anytime soon. Blalock won't start against left-handers, but that's still Washington's only way to get Sammy Sosa in the lineup. Botts can play the outfield, but Washington also has to find time for Marlon Byrd, Catalanotto, Brad Wilkerson, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy. Catalanotto and Wilkerson can play first base, but only when Saltalamacchia isn't playing there. Wilkerson and Sosa are both free agents after the season. That might make it less imperative to get them in the lineup, except Wilkerson just happens to lead the Rangers in home runs and Sosa still leads in RBIs. "We have a few guys who are going to be in the lineup, no matter who is pitching, and other guys who are going to be in the lineup when we feel they can help us win that day," Washington said. "We're going to keep trying to get everybody out there. That's just the way it is." Murphy is making it hard to take him out of the lineup. He was 2-for-4 on Tuesday and is now hitting .390 since coming over from the Red Sox in the Eric Gagne trade at the end of July. "I'm just going out there, playing hard and trying to have good at-bats," Murphy said. "I'm trying to be consistent. You can have a good week or two, but consistency is what gets you in the lineup." That's what the Rangers need to see from Botts in their final 24 games. "I just think he needs to relax and swing the bat," Washington said. "Just stay aggressive like he did tonight. He's going to be fine, it's just up to Jason. When he sees the pitches in there, he just needs to swing the bat. We're going to need his bat down the stretch."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.