Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Texas Rangers [Print without images]

Monday, October 24, 2011
Josh Hamilton hurting, but producing

By Jeff Caplan


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Who knew the media to be such a sympathetic crew? We are far more concerned with Josh Hamilton's sore groin or sports hernia or whatever it is that ails the short-circuiting slugger and whether he should even be playing far more than he or his team seems to be.

Hamilton still hasn't a hit a home run in 57 postseason at-bats. But, that's not the story. The ongoing story is that he refuses to come out of the lineup; that manager Ron Washington refuses to slide him down the batting order; and yet through his struggles Hamilton has delivered the game-tying RBI in the Game 2 comeback and now the Game4 winner with a rope to right field in Sunday's 4-0 victory that evened the series.

Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton's double in the first inning drove in Elvis Andrus for what proved to be the game-winning run.
"That was obviously a big knock for us; Josh with a big double," designated hitter Michael Young said. "We're not worried about Josh. Josh is going to be fine. He's going to play every game, grind his at-bats out and find a way to make hard contact, and he did that tonight."

He did the damage in the first inning off surprisingly tough St. Louis Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson. After Elvis Andrus singled with one out, Hamilton turned on Jackson's 1-2 curveball and raked it into the right field corner. It easily scored Andrus all the way from first for a 1-0 lead -- the first time Texas opened the scoring in the series -- that would have stood even without Mike Napoli's three-run blast in the sixth.

When Hamilton reached second base standing up, he looked into the Rangers' dugout and made all the requisite team hand signs signifying hustle and all that stuff.

We don't know if he was holding back the pain at that point because yet again Hamilton never made it out of the training room after the game. He receives lengthy treatment nightly on his groin or abdomen or whichever body part is under durress.

He started the day four hours before first pitch by dressing in full uniform -- along with Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman -- to take part in the coin flip across the street where the Dallas Cowboys were playing host to St. Louis' moribund football team, the Rams. Why the Rangers agreed to send Hamilton over to Jerry's yard is a mystery, but Hamilton did it, apparently without complaint.

Maybe standing next to Cowboys sack man DeMarcus Ware fired him up. Hamilton's first-inning double was just his second hit of the World Series and first for extra bases. He went hitless in his last three at-bats with a tapper to the mound, a flailing strikeout and finally a hard liner to center that perhaps could lead to some momentum for Monday's Game 5.

He could use it. Hamilton's offensive numbers across the board -- average (.125), slugging percentage (.188) on-base percentage (.118) and OPS (.305 - on base percentage plus slugging percentage) -- are unrecognizable by his standards and are by far the worst among the Rangers' regulars.

Still, he's produced in two key spots in the World Series and there has yet to be a time when his condition has prevented him from making a play in the outfield. To the contrary, who can forget his leaping grab crashing into the video board in left-field wall in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series?

"That hit in the first was huge. It gave us momentum," second baseman Ian Kinsler said of Hamilton's run-scoring double, one of just three hits Jackson allowed over 5 1/3 innings. "And, he squared that ball to center field in the seventh with Elvis on second. He hit that ball really hard, so it's good to see him square some balls up and maybe that gets him going."