Josh Hamilton left Cleveland on Wednesday with only one hit in 11 at-bats in his first three games of the season, but he left the Texas Rangers with a sense that his swing was nearly where it needed to be.
It got closer Thursday night, and it reached its destination Friday.
With it came the approach that could make him a productive player again.
Hamilton hit solo home runs in his first two at-bats, and he started a key two-out rally in the eighth inning by taking a walk as the Rangers finally put away Boston 7-4.
Other Rangers hitters made key contributions, but Hamilton stole the show with his first two-homer game in Arlington since Aug. 15, 2012.
“In Cleveland, that rhythm and timing were just a tick not there, and we felt comfortable it wouldn’t be long until the bat started finding the barrel,” manager Jeff Banister said. “He didn’t try to do too much. He let the ball travel, let it get deep, but the best swing he could on it, and both left the ballpark.”
The walk wasn’t as critical as the homers, and wasn’t nearly as glamorous, but his ability to go deep and to go deep in counts could make him a dangerous player in the Rangers’ lineup.
He worked a 3-2 count in the second before lining a 378-foot homer into the right-field seats off knuckleballer Steven Wright for the game’s first run, and deposited a 2-2 Wright pitch into nearly the same spot in the fourth for a 3-2 lead.
“Sense of relief. Get them out of the way,” Hamilton said. “ ‘Yeah, OK, I can still hit it out of the park.’ It always helps your confidence. The key is not getting too excited about it and go up there and have a good at-bat.”
But the Rangers were leading only 5-4 in the eighth when Hamilton fell behind left-hander Craig Breslow 0-2 before taking four straight balls to extend the inning. Hamilton went to third on a single by Mitch Moreland, and both scored when Robinson Chirinos bounced a double down the left-field line.
“The ability to get on base late when we needed another charge, I look at those at-bats as extremely key,” Banister said. “That was a big at-bat.”
Rookie Hanser Alberto collected an RBI triple off Alexi Ogando in a two-run seventh for his first career hit and RBI of his career.
He delivered after the Rangers made the first out of the inning on the bases for the second time in the game, and he scored for a 5-2 lead as Leonys Martin followed with a single.
“It was a fastball away,” Alberto said. “I was ready. I got it and put a good swing and got good results. I will save that ball forever.”
Yovani Gallardo (5-6) won his second straight start by allowing two runs (one earned) in six innings. The error that led to the two third-inning runs was his own and helped the Red Sox stick around.
But an errant throw to second base was his only mistake. He also was helped by Martin making a nice catch at the center-field wall and by Adam Rosales making a diving stop at second base.
“I kicked myself around a little bit there, but other than that it was a good one,” Gallardo said. “Some guys made some great plays behind me.”
The Rangers won despite two mistakes on the bat and Gallardo’s error. They overcame the Ramirez homer as Ross Ohlendorf missed his target by 18 inches.
Banister said that’s what good teams do, and the Rangers continue to be a good team in May. They are 16-11 this month and can climb back to .500 on Saturday with prized pitching prospect Chi Chi Gonzalez making his major-league debut.
“We were able to play through some mistakes that we made, but we won,” Banister said. “Elite teams do that. Teams that get on a roll are able cover up mistakes.”
Hitters that get on a roll by working counts, seeing pitches and making solid contact. Hamilton is 4 for 7 in his past two games, and he found his power stroke in his first two at-bats Friday night.
“It’s good to do something for a home crowd that you’ve done things before for,” Hamilton said. “It’s been fun the last two days.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760