Josh Hamilton ends rough June on upswing

ARLINGTON, Texas -- June did not turn out as Josh Hamilton had hoped. After winning American League player of the month awards for April and May, thanks to a combined .368 average with 21 homers and 57 RBIs, Hamilton hit just .223 with four homers and 16 RBIs in June.

He missed four games because of an intestinal virus and didn't seem comfortable at the plate. He even had seven strikeouts in one two-game stretch. Yet he's showing signs of snapping out of it. In his final seven games of the month, Hamilton batted .308 (8-for-26) with three homers and nine RBIs. He's had multi-hit games in three of his last four contests.

"I've been trying to lay off the pitches in off the plate, where earlier in the year I was swinging at them," Hamilton said. "Sometimes I'd hit them for home runs or hard in the gap and a lot of times I'd break a bat and hit a dribbler to first base or whatever. I'm just trying to lay off those and if I do that I get ahead and they have to come with a strike. I'm getting myself in better hitting counts."

In Saturday's 7-2 win over the Oakland A's -- the Rangers' 50th win, becoming the first club to get to that mark this season, and their seventh-straight series win -- Hamilton hit a three-run home run into the visitor's bullpen in left-center in the fifth inning to turn a 3-2 Rangers lead into a 6-2 advantage.

"He threw me a cutter and it ran across the middle of the plate," Hamilton said. "I was able to stay square and stay on it and put a good swing on it. It's good to get those types of hits, home runs, just to remind you and reinforce that you don't have to pull the ball to hit it out of the ballpark. Just go with the pitch."

It was the 25th home run of the season for Hamilton, who did it in the club's 79th game. No one in Rangers history has hit 25 home runs that quickly (Ivan Rodriguez hit 25 in the club's first 80 games in 2000). He's the first player with at least 25 homers and 73 RBIs after 79 team games since Albert Pujols in 2009 and the first in the AL since Alex Rodriguez in 2007. The 25 homers also match his season-high from 2011.

"I'm excited about it, but I like RBIs more than I like home runs," said Hamilton, who leads the league with 73 of them. "It's one of those things. I haven't tried to hit home runs. The biggest thing is to try to hit the ball hard, not far. It works. You just battle yourself and fight yourself as far as hitting it far sometimes instead of barreling it up and hitting it."

Hamilton was seen stretching and trying to loosen up his upper back during some plate appearances Saturday. He has a large bruise on his back from getting hit by a pitch and he said it gets tight. He feels it on big swings. But he's fine and feeling good about his overall health right now.

"If we keep him healthy and let him get his at-bats, he's going to go through periods where things don't go right, but you never know when he's going to 'pop up,'" manager Ron Washington said. "If he stays healthy, he'll have periods where he's on and periods where we can jump on his back."