Saturday, May 26, 2012
Sick Josh Hamilton plays the hero again
By Tim MacMahon
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Josh Hamilton spent most of Saturday afternoon seeing stars, struggling to deal with an upper respiratory and sinus infection while playing in 90-plus-degree heat.
Josh Hamilton struggled with routine plays on a hot day in Arlington, but he fought through illness to deliver in the 13th.
Hamilton still put on a fireworks show for the folks from the sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington who stuck around for all four hours, 38 minutes of Texas' first walk-off win of the season.
Add the 13th-inning homer to Hamilton's long list of Roy Hobbs-like moments. His two-run shot onto Greene's Hill behind the center-field fence capped a come-from-behind 8-7 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, triggering the fireworks above the stadium and providing another magical moment to the storybook superstar's potential Triple Crown campaign.
"That's the best talent in baseball right now," said Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus, who was on second base when Hamilton got the sweet spot on a 1-2 splitter from Blue Jays reliever Jason Frasor. "I don't think he has to be 100 percent to hit a homer."
Hamilton left no doubt about that Saturday, when he needed an IV and oxygen in addition to his routine postgame treatment.
For most of the game, Hamilton looked like a dazed-and-confused shadow of himself. He struggled in center field, initially turning the wrong way on one double and failing to make a play that he often would on another. He went 1-for-5 with an RBI on a weak groundout before his homer, blowing a golden opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the 11th by grounding out to first base with one out and a runner on third base.
"I hit a wall in the fifth inning, man," Hamilton said. "And when I hit it, every time I exerted myself, got lightheaded, seeing those little stars and just couldn't figure it out."
Hamilton figured it out in time to smash the third walk-off homer of his career. It was Hamilton's 20th homer in the 29-18 Rangers' 47th game, making him the fastest big leaguer to 20 homers since Albert Pujols in 2006 and the fastest American Leaguer since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997.
But Hamilton's most vivid memory from the Rangers' wild win wasn't his homer or being mobbed by teammates at home plate or anything else that happened on the field. It was a moment when he was sitting in the dugout during the extra innings, head down near his chest.
Hamilton looked down while trying to catch his breath and saw several scraps of paper on the ground. He recognized that it was a lesson from the Bible's Book of Isaiah that was handed to Hamilton the previous night by Shayne Kelley, the staff assistant the Rangers hired this offseason to support the recovering drug and alcohol addict. The gist was about young men roaming weary and being given strength by the Lord.
"I could just read bits and pieces of it," Hamilton said. "It just reminded me that, you know what, I don't have any strength today. I'm completely out of it, but He's gotten me through a lot worse. He helped me here."
Sick or not, Hamilton's heroics can't be considered a surprise. This is a former MVP with freakish talent who ranks second in the AL with a .376 batting average and leads the league in homers and RBIs (53).
Amazing is almost routine for Hamilton. He's had a four-homer game, a nine-homer week, 12 game-winning RBIs and put together a highlight reel of ridiculous catches so far this season.
"He really makes the game look that easy sometimes," Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland said. "I mean, he's definitely going to have his ups and downs, but for the most part, what he's done this year has been unbelievable. It's been a lot of fun to watch."
The fireworks were worth sticking around in the heat for almost five hours Saturday afternoon. Hamilton's legend grew by about 424 feet.