Commentary

Josh Hamilton yet to hit his stride

With September looming, Rangers could use prolonged hot streak from reigning MVP

Updated: August 29, 2011, 5:58 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Josh Hamilton has been good this season. We expect more from the reigning most valuable player.

So does he.

Perhaps he's about to deliver a month to remember.

On Sunday night before a national television audience, Hamilton provided the two biggest hits of the Texas Rangers' season.

[+] EnlargeJosh Hamilton
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezJosh Hamilton came through with perhaps the two biggest hits of the Rangers' season thus far against the Angels.

First, his two-run homer in the third inning tied the score as the Rangers rallied from a three-run deficit. Then, Hamilton delivered a tie-breaking RBI single in the seventh.

Texas 9, Los Angeles 5.

The victory enabled the Rangers to increase their lead in the AL West to three games after winning two of three games and five of seven from the Los Angeles Angels in the past two weeks.

Texas will not see the Angels again until Sept. 26-28, when the teams meet in Anaheim.

Understand, it's hard to complain about a player hitting .298 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs in just 96 games, but Hamilton has a prodigious talent. He's capable of carrying the Rangers for two or three months, when he's in the zone.

That's not hyperbole. We all saw him do it last summer.

We've been waiting for a classic Hamilton hot streak all summer, and it hasn't happened.

Michael Young hit .390 in July. Mike Napoli has hit .359 since July 1. Hamilton? Before Sunday's game, he was hitting .283 with six homers and 22 RBIs since the All-Star break.

The Rangers won't win the AL West without Hamilton being their best player -- not with their schedule and not with a rotation that looks shakier every day.

"It's been frustrating," Hamilton said of his season. "I've been consistent, but not consistent enough to have a hot streak.

"My at-bats tonight were good. I was patient. I didn't get myself out. I stayed back on the off-speed stuff and I was able to generate some power."

Hamilton finished the game with three hits for only the second time in his past 28 games.

Still, no hit was more important than his third-inning homer against Jered Weaver, who was making his first start on three days rest in his five-year career.

Weaver, easily the second-best pitcher in the American League this season, began the game with a 2.05 ERA.

He walked Ian Kinsler to start the third inning, and Elvis Andrus brought him home on a triple to right, bringing Hamilton to the plate.

Weaver threw Hamilton a curveball. He crushed it to center field.

That's because Hamilton stepped into the batter's box with a well-thought plan, and executed perfectly.

It was his second at-bat in the game, which is usually when Weaver starts going to his collection of off-speed pitches. Weaver relies on fastballs the first time through the lineup.

So Hamilton expected a curveball. When Weaver threw it, Hamilton stayed back on the ball instead of lunging at it, allowing him to generate additional power.

Suddenly, the score was tied, 4-4.

"It was huge," Ron Washington said of Hamilton's homer. "That was exciting. It energized us. We feed off Josh because he can do so many things."

In the seventh inning, the Rangers tied the score at 5 on Kinsler's RBI single. Andrus moved him into scoring position with a perfect bunt that also knocked Weaver out of the game.

Manager Mike Scioscia brought left-hander Scott Downs in to face Hamilton.

On Saturday night, Downs retired Hamilton on a curveball. When he faced Hamilton in Anaheim two weeks ago, he threw him two-seam fastballs.

Hamilton prepared himself to see a curveball, but he readied his body to react if Downs threw him a fastball.

Downs threw the fastball, and Hamilton smacked it into right field as the Rangers took a 6-5 lead.

The Rangers have been waiting all season for a prolonged hot streak from Hamilton.

September looms. It's time.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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