Josh Hamilton helped his team win a lot of games in his previous stint with the Texas Rangers.
For much of his five-year tenure, Hamilton was the catalyst for unprecedented success by the organization.
On Monday, he returned to the team that he helped lead to back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011.
And much like those halcyon days when the Rangers were one of the best teams in the league, the offense was able to out-slug its opponent with a barrage of big-hitting weapons.
Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre hit back-to-back homers in the first, and Elvis Andrus homered in the seventh as the Rangers beat the Cleveland Indians 10-8 at Progressive Field for their sixth consecutive win.
The suddenly trustworthy bullpen got a career-high 3 1/3 innings from Alex Claudio after starter Phil Klein was knocked out in the third, and Tanner Scheppers and Sam Freeman combined for 2 2/3 hitless innings before Shawn Tolleson worked a perfect ninth for his fourth save — all coming on the current road trip.
Hamilton’s homecoming with the Rangers lacked any signature highlights for the former MVP. Batting fifth, he went 0 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts. He reached base on a tapper back to the mound in the seventh when the pitcher threw wildly to first.
In left field, he missed a sinking line drive to his left but later caught a fly ball that was hit right at him. He wasn’t charged with an error, but Hamilton said he should have caught the liner that turned into a double.
“Oh, for sure,” he said. “Off the bat, I thought maybe it was going in the gap and it took a hard left on me. That’s something you work on in batting practice, getting those jumps and reads.”
Manager Jeff Banister has no doubt Hamilton will help his team win games.
“It’s been awhile,” Banister said. “I believe he’s going to be fine out there; I felt like he was fine out there anyways. We’ve seen guys who have been out there for a month and three quarters miss that ball. He’ll be fine.”
Hamilton’s nerves subsided by the third inning, he said, and he’s relishing the opportunity to hit in the middle of a red-hot lineup.
“It was good to feel the energy in the dugout, fun to be hitting behind [Shin-Soo] Choo, Prince [Fielder] and [Adrian] Beltre,” he said. “That’s something to look forward to on a day-in, day-out basis. It was good.”
The Rangers (22-23) are 15-9 in May and have won 12 of their last 15 road games.
“We have a good lineup, we know what we’re capable of and it’s starting to show a little bit now,” said Fielder, who was 3 for 5 with a homer, double and three RBIs. “And we got better with Josh coming, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
It was Fielder’s 22nd multihit game this season, the most by a Rangers player through the first 45 games since Michael Young in 2006. He’s batting .365, second-best in the majors.
“I’m just trying to get good pitches to hit,” he said. “It really helps having Adrian, having Mitch, having Josh and having Choo. Having all those guys around really helps.”
Hamilton said joining the team amid a winning streak makes the transition easier.
“The mentality is everything,” he said. “You start winning some ballgames and guys get a lot of confidence. It goes from hitting to pitching to playing defense. It was [fun] the way it kept going back and forth.
“We were battling and they would come back and then we would come back. It was exciting. I look forward to more of them. It was a really good day.”
At the plate
Here’s a look at Josh Hamilton’s first game back with the Rangers on Monday:
1st at-bat (1st inning): Called strike; foul ball, ball, swinging strikeout (81 mph changeup)
2nd at-bat (3rd inning): Ball in the dirt; ball; swinging strike; swinging strike; ball; ball (walk)
3rd at-bat (5th inning): Called strike; ball; swinging strike; ball; swinging strikeout (92 mph cut fastball)
4th at-Bat (7th inning): Ball; tapper back to the mound (96 mph four-seam fastball), reaches second base on throwing error to first.
In the field
Hamilton failed to catch a sinking liner to his left in the second inning, which was scored as a double. Hamilton said he should have caught it.
He caught the only other fly ball hit to him for the first out in the fourth.