Hamilton's mature approach shows in win
Wilson puts in seven strong innings, collects fifth victory
ARLINGTON -- Josh Hamilton should be the last player in baseball to distance himself from hitting home runs in batting practice, when you consider what the 2008 Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium did for him.
That night in the Bronx introduced Hamilton and his story of overcoming his demons to a national audience.
Now the story may be Hamilton turning the page on putting on a show, and it was a focal point of the Rangers' 12-2 pounding of the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. His torrid June kept going with another home run, his 12th of the season, and he racked up three more RBIs as he approached the Top 10 in the American League in RBIs (he has 39 for the season).
Hamilton says he's improving as a hitter as he realizes that batting practice is not for home runs, even though he can still put on a display with the best of them.
"It's not for a show," Hamilton said. "It's for working on things. Things you do in the cage carry over into batting practice. And then it's trying to work on the same things in batting practice. And then, when the game comes along, just go up there and hit it. Trust yourself. If it doesn't work out go back the next day and try to get it to work out.
"Everybody's seen the show I can put on in batting practice, so I'm trying to get away from that."
It's a very mature outlook, and one that is working. Hamilton has 15 hits in 35 at-bats in June. He's raised his season batting average from .281 to .304.
He got rid of a toe tap that he was using as a timing mechanism when the Rangers were in Chicago at the beginning of the month. Hamilton says that has been a key part of putting an end to what started out as an up-and-down beginning to the season.
"I'm finally figuring out how to adapt my batting stance into everything but the tap," Hamilton said. "It was a couple of pieces that I couldn't really put a finger on when Rudy was here. It never got comfortable. Right now, it seems to be comfortable which is really a blessing." Hamilton showed that he was in his comfort zone in the bottom of the second with the Rangers already staked to a 6-2 lead. He had talked the day before about the importance of the Rangers extending leads. He practiced what he preached, feasting on a 2-1 changeup from Ian Snell and lined it into the Rangers' bullpen in right-center field, completing a six-run outburst.
"The biggest thing I'm trying to do is getting myself to realize how quick my hands are," Hamilton said. "I feel better as far as pitch recognition. Even with Snell, he usually doesn't throw in, first at-bat he threw in with two pitches and I swung at a pitch I shouldn't have swung at. Next at-bat I went up there, saw the pitch and let it get deep."
Hamilton said he's been trying to square up instead of trying to lift the ball out of the ballpark. He made a point of mentioning that to hitting coach Clint Hurdle after hitting the home run.
"I felt like I stayed through the ball well," Hamilton said. "It was an offspeed pitch and I didn't try to lift it out. I just squared it up and it went."
Hamilton wasn't the only part of the Rangers' offense that clicked on Wednesday night. After falling behind 2-0 in the first inning, third baseman Michael Young, the second batter in the bottom of the inning, ignited his offense with a opposite-field home run to right, cutting the Seattle lead to 2-1. It was a momentum shifting homer.
"To tell you the truth, I don't think any pitch would have made any difference," said Snell when asked about the game-changing (at the time) pitch to Young. "He got the bat to the the ball and it found the spot in the outfield."
Snell was wrong. Vladimir Guerrero tied the game later in the inning with an RBI double. Then the Rangers batted around in the bottom of the second, scoring six runs with two outs.
With the game tied 2-2, Young started a two-out rally with an innocent single to center. Then came singles by Ian Kinsler and Guerrero to make it 5-2. Kinsler scored on a wild pitch by Snell for a 6-2 lead. And then Hamilton hit his two-run homer to make it 8-2.
"All our All-Stars are clicking," outfielder David Murphy said. "Vladdy's on another planet now, Mike is Mike every night and Josh is fun to watch every night. Just between those guys they probably could have won the game by themselves."
Hamilton had another RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, and Murphy had one right behind him for a 10-2 lead.
The big night on offense allowed Wilson to settle in, after falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first on back-to-back doubles by Jose Lopez and Josh Wilson.
Wilson allowed a two-out single to Franklin Gutierrez in the the third and a one-out double to Ichiro Suzuki in the fifth, but otherwise stifled the Mariners as he went seven innings. Wilson won his fifth game, tying him with fellow starter Colby Lewis and reliever Frank Francisco for the team lead in victories.
"I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes and cruise," Wilson said of pitching with a big lead. "When Michael hit that home run, I knew it was going to be one of those days."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.