05/17/12 7:50 PM ET
Nathan blowing hitters away
By Christian Corona / MLB.com
He had pitched in each of the Rangers' four series, but had only one save opportunity, which he converted in a 5-2 win over the Indians on May 5.
"There haven't been a lot of chances out there, but I've been in every series," Nathan said. "This job, as much as we don't want it to be, it's a flooding and then it's a drought. You're going to get a ton of chances and then there's going to be spells when you don't get out there."
Nathan struck out the side in the ninth inning of Wednesday's 4-1 win over the Athletics, needing only 15 pitches to do, so and showing an increase in velocity, touching 95 and 96 mph.
"It's been a while since I have thrown this hard," Nathan said. "I've been used to throwing 91, 92 mph. I probably hit [95-96 mph] back in '08, but not as consistently. ... Velocity's not the most important thing out there, location is. But it doesn't hurt, because you can get away with a lot more mistakes."
"He's back," said manager Ron Washington. "He had tremendous stuff last night. Each time he's taken the ball, since the first two games of the season, he's been getting sharper and sharper."
Since blowing his second save of the year in a 4-3 loss to the Mariners on April 11, Nathan has posted a 0.77 ERA and five saves.
"Saves aren't important. Winning games is, however it happens," said Nathan. "That was just a little raindrop."
Hamilton has brief day off before pinch-hitting
ARLINGTON -- Every regular in the Rangers' lineup got a day off this week except one. On Thursday, Josh Hamilton got his, albeit until the eighth inning.
"It was just as simple as it was to give the rest of them a day off," said manager Ron Washington. "Just had to pick a day."
Hamilton, who extended his hit streak to an American League-best 16 games during Wednesday's 4-1 win over the Athletics, was out of the starting lineup Thursday. David Murphy filled in for Hamilton in left field and batted fifth. Hamilton leads the AL with a .399 batting average, 18 home runs and 45 RBIs.
His 16-game hit streak, the longest in his career since a 23-game stretch in June 2010, came to an end during Thursday's 5-4, 10-inning loss to the Athletics. Hamilton entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Craig Gentry in the eighth inning and went 0-for-2.
"It allows you to be stress-free for a few innings," Hamilton said. "Not really having to think about the game, but just out there supporting your teammates and encouraging them. If we have a day off, about the sixth inning, I'm still getting ready. In about the sixth inning, I went to the cage, and I was ready to go."
Michael Young was hitting third in the Rangers' lineup, where Hamilton normally bats, as the designated hitter.
"We have a lot of established guys in our lineup," Young said. "Josh is on an incredible tear, but we really have a talented team with a bunch of established hitters so that's not really an issue right now."
Kinsler ready to go after sitting with virus
ARLINGTON -- After being scratched from the lineup shortly before Wednesday's game against the Athletics with a stomach virus, Ian Kinsler rejoined the Rangers' lineup on Thursday.
Like he normally does, Kinsler batted leadoff and returned to second base. Alberto Gonzalez filled in for Kinsler at second base during Wednesday's 4-1 victory over the Athletics, his third straight start and batted second. Elvis Andrus took over for Kinsler in the leadoff spot of the order for the second time this season.
"I was sick," Kinsler said. "I couldn't play."
Kinsler, who leads the Major Leagues with 33 runs, is batting .222 with three RBIs in his last 13 games. The Rangers are 16-8 when Kinsler scores a run, and 8-6 when he doesn't.
"He's fine," said manager Ron Washington after Wednesday night's game. "By the time we got to the fourth inning, he was ready to go. But it was too late."
GM Daniels impressed with bullpen
ARLINGTON -- It's no secret that a team's bullpen is crucial to its success, particularly in the later months of the season.
Fortunately for the Rangers, their bullpen boasts the best ERA in the Major Leagues at 2.13. Rangers relievers are also holding hitters to a Major League-best .210 batting average and have walked only 16 batters in 101 1/3 innings this season, while striking out 97.
"They've all put the team first and been prepared," said general manager Jon Daniels. "Whether it's Scott [Feldman], who has the ability to start as we saw the other day, they've all kind of put that aside and put the team first."
Feldman suffered a loss on Monday against the Royals but did not give up an earned run in 4 2/3 innings. Adrian Beltre made a throwing error, his second of the season, which extended a fifth inning that saw the Royals take a 2-1 lead on a single by Alcides Escobar. That would be the last batter Feldman faced before he exited the game.
Joe Nathan retired the side in Wednesday's win over the Athletics, striking out all three batters he faced, and picking up his eighth save. Alexei Ogando has a team-best ERA 0.45 ERA and has not allowed a run in his last 15 1/3 innings, while Koji Uehara has a 9 1/3 scoreless-innings streak of his own.
"We've just tried to put as strong and as deep a roster together as possible," Daniels said. "Guys are going to struggle for periods. Injuries, you don't know when or where, but they're going to happen. We have to be proactive and get out in front of them."
Through 38 games, the Rangers have yet to make a roster move.
"Knock on wood," Daniels said.
Double-A Frisco shortstop Jurickson Profar singled in the fifth inning of Wednesday's game, extending his hitting streak to 26 games. He has reached base in 35 straight games.
Washington said Feldman, who made a spot start on Monday for Derek Holland, will likely not be available until Friday's game against the Astros.
Wednesday's game against the Athletics marked the 12th sellout at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, tied for the third most in team history. Thursday's game was also projected to be a sellout.
At 24-14, the Rangers are off to the second-best 38-game start in team history.
Christian Corona is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.