© 2010 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

06/28/10 12:48 AM ET

Smoak excited about Gamecocks' title shot

ARLINGTON -- Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak is one happy Gamecock.

Smoak, who starred for the University of South Carolina baseball team from 2006-2008, watched his former team clinch a spot in the College World Series championship series on Saturday night with a win over archrival Clemson.

"It's awesome," Smoak said. "I'm very excited for them and the University and Coach [Ray] Tanner and the team. They've done a great job. They're in the championship series and hopefully they can win two more."

Smoak, who is Carolina's all-time leader in home runs, RBIs, walks and total bases, says he'll definitely be rooting for his former team against UCLA in a best-of-three series beginning Monday. He wasn't able to watch most of the World Series leading up to Friday night, but he made sure he watched the winner-take-all game. "I watched just about every pitch," Smoak said. "I caught it in the bottom of the first, and from then on out I watched the whole game. It was a good win."

The Rangers travel to Anaheim this week to take on the Angels, but Smoak says he'll make sure he catches some of USC's games.

"We're flying out at 6:30 or 7, I think," Smoak said. "Hopefully I'll have my phone on and I'll be able to talk to somebody and figure out what's going on."

Hamilton extends hitting streak to 21

ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton extended his hitting streak to a career-high 21 games Sunday night against the Astros at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The hit, a two-run homer to right field in his first at-bat, leaves him just seven shy of tying the club record of 28 consecutive games with a base hit, held by Gabe Kapler, who accomplished the feat in 2000.

"Hitting home runs in the first one or two at-bats in the game are not good for me," Hamilton said. "Because then I'm going to try and hit one farther instead of being patient and hitting the ball hard somewhere.

"Maybe I need to start hitting them later in games."

The 21-game hitting streak is also the longest streak in the Major Leagues this season, tied with Kansas City's Jose Guillen, who extended his streak on Sunday.

"I don't think about it," Hamilton said of the streak. "I talk about it when [the media] wants to talk about it, then I put it out of my mind."

The homer was the second-longest in stadium history at 468 feet. The longest was hit by Jose Canseco at 480 feet in 1994. In May of last season, Hamilton hit a 460-foot homer against the Angels, then the second longest in stadium history.

"I got all of it," Hamilton said. "I see it go up, and I feel like it's going out and I put my head down and run. I don't watch it land. I let everybody tell me when I get back to the dugout."

Said Rangers manager Ron Washington: "It looked like it would clear the whole stadium. He got through it pretty good. He jumped on the fastball before [Roy] Oswalt could do anything else and got him."

In addition, Hamilton tied a club record for hits in a month with 47 alongside Mickey Rivers and Frank Catalanotto, who accomplished the feat in 1980 and 2001, respectively.

Hamilton credits his recent surge to his improvement overall at the plate.

"At first, it was trying to hit the ball harder," Hamilton said. "And that wasn't working too good. I wasn't doing bad, but it wasn't doing up to my standards, either. We revamped some things. I just want to put the barrel on the ball. And if I do that, I'll be successful more than not."

Guerrero heads to old stomping grounds

ARLINGTON -- Rangers designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero is returning to the place where he spent the past six years of his career.

The Rangers begin a pivotal three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starting Tuesday, marking Guerrero's first trip back since he became a Ranger during the offseason.

But if you ask Guerrero, it's just another game.

"We're in the same division, so I knew it was going to happen," Guerrero said. "That's really all it is."

In six seasons with the Angels, Guerrero hit .319 with 173 home runs and 616 RBIs and won the American League MVP Award in 2004. But after hitting just .295 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in 2009, the Angels did not bring him back, and he signed with the Rangers.

But Guerrero says he's still unsure as to what type of reception he'll garner from fans during his first at-bat.

"It was quite good with all the fans over there and with my teammates," Guerrero said. "I didn't have any problems with anyone. So that's why I don't know what the reaction is going to be, now that I'm going back for the first time."

Guerrero's move has certainly paid off for him and the Rangers alike, as he's hitting .326 with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs for the first-place club. He leads all designated hitters in All-Star votes, having garnered more than a million more votes than Angels' DH Hideki Matsui.

"I feel good. I've had a lot of years, and now I'm playing healthy," Guerrero said. "I just have to keep working and stay healthy. And that's my main focus."

Guerrero certainly reflects fondly on his time as a Halo, but he knows what's at stake when the Rangers travel to Angel Stadium with a decent lead in the AL West (four games over the second-lace Angels heading into Sunday's game).

"I spent six years with them and it was a good time for me," Guerrero said. "I'm happy with that, but we'll have to see what happens in this series."

TCU baseball team honored for CWS run

ARLINGTON -- The Texas Christian University baseball team was honored before Sunday's game against the Astros at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

In their first appearance at the College World Series, the Horned Frogs came within a game of the championship series but fell to UCLA, 10-3, in the elimination game.

Coach Jim Schlossnagle, who was named the National College Baseball Writers Association of America Coach of the Year, threw out the first pitch of the final game between the Rangers and Astros this season.

He made sure he atoned for his performance from a season ago.

"I threw out the first pitch last year and sank a fastball low and in," Schlossnagle said.

Headlining the list of attendees was the Rangers' 2009 first-round Draft pick Matt Purke. Purke turned down the Rangers' offer and headed to TCU, where he went 16-0 with a 3.02 ERA. He struck out 142 batters in 116 1/3 innings.

"I've never seen anything like it from a junior or senior, let alone a freshman," Schnlossnagle said. "He literally willed us to winning those games. He's special."

But Purke wasn't worried about the financial issues of a year ago and was just pleased to be honored by the club.

"It's great to be honored," Purke said. "This place is a good place. Great ballpark, great team. It's huge."

Schlossnagle guided TCU to a school-record 54 wins and advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the seventh consecutive season. The Horned Frogs advanced to Omaha after stunning No. 2 national seed Texas in Austin, as TCU took two of three from the Longhorns.

Worth noting

In 25 career games against the Astros heading into Sunday, Ian Kinsler has a .364 average and a .667 slugging percentage with six home runs. ... Heading into Sunday, Josh Hamilton had hit safely in 22 straight games in Interleague Play, the fourth-longest streak for an American League player in Interleague history. ... The Rangers' rotation had 13 wins in June before Sunday's game, which is six more than win totals for both April and May. ... Before Sunday, Frank Francisco ranked second among AL relievers with 43 strikeouts. ... Neftali Feliz had retired 35 of the past 39 left-handed hitters over the past 23 games before Sunday.

Chris Cox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.