ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington spent about five minutes before Game 2 explaining why he would play Josh Hamilton in center with Julio Borbon in Thursday's Game 2 lineup and increase the risk of injury to Hamilton's oh-so-tender ribs.
Washington wanted Hamilton roaming cavernous center field under the tricky Tropicana Field roof and Hamilton showed why twice in the second inning with two beautiful catches that turned a potentially dangerous inning for starter C.J. Wilson into a three-up, three-down set.
Hamilton first robbed Ben Zobrist with a full-on sprint to snare a sinking liner. The next batter, Willie Aybar, drove one to Hamilton's right. It appeared he wouldn't get to it, but he made a spectacular diving grab, again right on those ribs.
"You don't want them to get a rally going or them to get any kind of momentum," Hamilton said. "I think they're a little more comfortable with me being out there after [Game 1], seeing fly balls and line drives and feeling pretty good iwth it. It's Borbon's first game and to have him out there, you don't want to take a chance of him losing stuff. But, anybody can lose anything at any time here."
And Hamilton did that, too, and provided the club with yet another hold-your-breath moment with those ribs.
In the bottom of the seventh and the Rangers leading 6-0, Rays designated hitter Willy Aybar took Wilson high and deep to center. Hamilton turned and started running toward the wall.
"I had a chance," Hamilton said." The roof sucks here. I broke back good. It was one of those where you got to put your head down and run and pick the ball back up when you get closer to where you need to be. It was tough to pick it up once you take your off it."
Almost simultaneously, the ball and Hamilton caromed off the the green wall. Aybar cruised into second with a double, just the Rays second hit off Wilson and their final hit of the game. Hamilton look no worse for wear.
"It hurt me a little bit," Hamilton said. "I still was close."
Hamiton continues to wear padding under his uniform, a good thing since he dove head-first in a steal of second in Game 1, dove and in Game 2 made a diving grab on the artificial turf and the crash into the wall.
So, how does Hamilton feel heading into Saturday's potential series-clinching Game 3?
"Good enough," Hamilton said. "I'll be sore tomorrow because I'm already sore right now. So, take a day, do what I can tomorrow in practice and get ready for Saturday."