Week 1 of Josh Hamilton’s 2015 season ended with a bang Sunday, as he reprised his hero role from years gone by in a Texas Rangers uniform.
Weeks 2 through 4, though, will center on how he can help the Rangers fill the void in the lineup as Adrian Beltre recovers from a left thumb injury.
Hamilton delivered a two-run, two-out, pinch-hit walk-off double off Boston closer Koji Uehara as the Rangers rallied to a 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox for their first home series win of the season.
Earlier in the game, though, Beltre slid hard into second base and suffered a sprained left thumb and a cut that required four stitches. He said that he won’t swing a bat for 12 days, which likely means he will miss at least three weeks.
The Rangers are no stranger to injuries the past two seasons. They are also no stranger to Hamilton being a productive player, as he was in the four-game series against Boston.
“It feels like old times. It really does,” Hamilton said. “I’m having a lot of fun. Having a game like today reminds you of having good times with the Rangers.”
The Rangers were down 3-2 entering the ninth inning against Uehara, but got a jump-start when Pablo Sandoval booted a Hanser Alberto grounder to start the inning. Alberto went to second on a bunt by Delino DeShields and reached third on a groundout by Shin-Soo Choo.
The Red Sox elected to walk Prince Fielder, the American League’s top hitter, and put the winning run on base ahead of Adam Rosales, who had replaced Beltre after the fifth inning.
The Rangers, though, countered with Hamilton, and he sliced the third pitch into the gap in left-center field. Alberto scored easily, and Fielder lumbered in without a throw from first base.
“I’m running out of the gate,” Fielder said. “As soon as he swung, I was gone. I definitely wasn’t going to stop.”
Hamilton finished his first week 6 for 22 (.273) with two homers and five RBIs, and the Rangers went 5-2 to finish May with a 19-11 record and climb above .500 (26-25) for the first time since last June.
He has given the Rangers a lift, and will have to continue to be a productive player with Beltre out.
The All-Star third baseman was injured in an unusual way, sliding into second base to break up a double play. He had just singled to start the fifth, and went hard into second base as Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts attempted to turn a double play on a Mitch Moreland chopper.
Beltre’s thumb banged into the base as he reached for it on the wide slide into Bogaerts, and he stayed on the ground for an extended period. He was lifted to start the sixth inning, and was wearing a split when he met with reporters after the game.
“I didn’t expect to get hurt that way, but that’s baseball,” Beltre said. “They told me that I’ll have to wait about 12 days to grab a bat. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve never had this before. I hope to heal faster.”
Manager Jeff Banister said that the Rangers will use the off day to decide how they will replace Beltre. Adam Rosales is the top in-house candidate, and the Rangers can use Beltre’s roster spot to recall second baseman Rougned Odor.
Double A third baseman Joey Gallo is the Rangers’ top prospect, but the prudent move is to keep him in the minors and not derail his development or start the clock on his service time.
Rosales, who has been playing more than a utility man usually does, said that he feels comfortable at third base.
“Obviously, I’m not Adrian Beltre,” Rosales said. “Banny’s been getting me and keeping me fresh. I just need to keep on having quality at-bats, keep making good plays and stay fundamental.”
The Rangers have faith in Rosales’ defense, he had a four-hit game Saturday and is batting .400 (10 for 25) in his past nine games.
“Whoever plays third is going to do a better job than I am,” Beltre said.
As Rosales said, though, he’s no Beltre. But the Rangers will get help from Hamilton, who reprised his hero role Sunday.
“What he’s done in the past and what he’s capable of doing and being able to change a game is huge to have on any team,” Moreland said. “I’m happy he’s on ours, and it’s good to have him back.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760
Rangers’ offensive 180
Texas went 7-14 in April but went 19-11 in May. A big reason was its drastic offensive turnaround (MLB rank in parenthesis):