Rangers Week 8 News and Notes

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2015


By Dic Humphrey

Josh Hamilton played his first game for the Rangers in Arlington since returning to the team on Thursday night.  There was angst over what the fan reaction would be, but in the end, Ranger fans welcomed Hamilton back with open arms.
The first clue came shortly before the game when PA announcer Chuck Morgan gave the Rangers’ starting lineup.  There was a positive fan reaction when Hamilton’s name was called.  The real answer came in the second inning when Hamilton headed to home plate for his first at bat.  It was a standing ovation.
Hamilton hesitated briefly before getting into the batters’ box to soak in the moment. “It was awesome,” he said after the game. “It was a good feeling. I didn’t know what to expect.  To have the fans cheering and standing meant a lot.”
Hamilton whacked the first pitch from Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez, who was making his Major League debut, down the right field line for a double.  That extended his Globe Life Ballpark hitting streak to 15 games.  In the ninth inning, he singled home Adrian Beltre to complete a 2-4 night at the plate.  That was the lone Ranger run of the game as they lost 5-1 to the last place Red Sox tagging Nick Martinez with his first loss of the season.
It was always a foregone conclusion that Hamilton would join the team on the road.  There was a question of how he would be received by local fans after his less than pleasant departure to join the Angels after the 2012 season.  He has been booed loudly in his Arlington appearances as an Angel.  The team also wanted to get the initial nerves of playing out of the way before he faced the local crowd.
He was activated earlier in the week for the Rangers’ series with Cleveland, in which he played left field and made 12 plate appearances.  He walked once, reached on an error once, got one hit, and scored a run against Cleveland.
When Hamilton was signed, the Rangers’ offense looked pathetic.  The team hit just .210 for the month of April.  However, during the time that Hamilton resumed baseball activities after the trade and went on to play minor league rehab games for AAA Round Rock and AA Frisco, the Rangers’ offense turned around.
Sin-Shoo Choo is having an amazing month after his average dipped to as low as 0.096.
Prince Fielder hit for average in April, but with no one around him in the batting order hitting well, he saw very few good pitches to hit with power.  That’s turned around in May as Adrian Beltre is also having a stellar month.  Fielder hit five home runs on the recent nine game road trip pushing his total into double digits.  He has been leading the American League in batting average and RBIs in recent days.  In short, he’s likely already done enough to earn a spot on the A.L. All-Star team.
Manager Jeff Banister chose to bat Hamilton fifth.  He didn’t want to break up the three-four combination of Fielder and Beltre.  Hamilton’s entre moved Mitch Moreland down to sixth in the batting order.  Moreland has been on a tear of his own after returning from the disabled list.
The outfield situation is now a bit crowded with Hamilton in the picture.  Delino DeShields, Jr. had been logging most of the left field innings prior to Hamilton’s activation.  His speed and energy have earned him a spot as the Rangers’ lead-off hitter.  Hamilton then essentially moved DeShields into a platoon with Leonys Martin in center field.
DeShields has played some second base in the minor leagues, the position that his father starred at playing in the 90’s.
The Rangers still have a hole at second base after Rougned Odor fizzled at the start of the season.  Journeyman Tommy Field and back-up infielder Adam Rosales are holding down the position now, but it’s no secret the team is seeking a second base upgrade.
However, Banister told Eric Nadel on the pre-game radio show recently that DeShields would only be used at second base in an emergency.  The 12-3 blowout last Wednesday in Cleveland afforded Banister the opportunity to take a look at DeShields at second base in the late innings, but don’t count on seeing much more of that.
One question is what should fans expect out of Hamilton?  The team is cautioning not to expect the All-Star seasons he turned in when he was the offensive backbone of the two Ranger World Series teams.  He’s 34 now and more than two years down the road since leaving the Rangers.  The team is probably right, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Hamilton does return to be the player the Rangers saw in his first tour with the team.  Texas obviously did a good job before of creating an atmosphere on and off the field that allowed Hamilton to succeed.  It could happen again.
More likely though, he will hit in the .260-.285 range and hit home runs and drive in runs at a pace of 20-25 and 70-90 over the course of a full season.  Those numbers would be welcomed by the team.
Texas won seven straight games on the recent nine-game, three city road trip that assures a winning record in the month of May.  The streak pushed the team back into the A. L. West picture.  Earlier this week, the Rangers returned to .500 at 23-23.     However, they are not ready to be called a contender yet.  The team’s offense has been much better in May, but is still inconsistent.
The bullpen has been better this month, but is still a scary proposition.  The starting pitching has actually slipped in recent days with short starts that tax the pen.
The defense is still terrible as the team goes into the weekend having committed an error in seven straight games.
Amazingly too, the Rangers have difficulty winning at home.  Hamilton’s debut game was the Rangers’ 20th in Arlington this season.  The loss moved the home record to 6-14.
The biggest problem though may be Houston.  They have the best record in the American League and the biggest lead in any division leader in baseball going into the weekend.  The season will be one-third played in the next few days, and the Astros are giving every indication they are the real deal.


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