Walk-off double in ninth sparks wild celebration for Rangers
By Dave Sessions
Special to MLB.com |
ARLINGTON -- A month ago, Josh Hamilton was in baseball limbo, waiting for the Angels to decide his fate, and the Rangers were in their own version of purgatory as they plunged to the bottom of the standings.
A month can be a long time in baseball, though. After the Rangers spent April generating offense at a rate more suited for the era before the designated hitter, the Rangers began to redeem themselves in May. A productive month culminated Sunday in the giddy celebration following Hamilton's pinch-hit, two-out, walk-off two-run double that beat the Red Sox, 4-3, and pushed the Rangers above .500 for the first time since June 6 of last season.
"It's a testament to their belief in who they think they are -- who they know they are," manager Jeff Banister said. "We were really close last month a number of times and here lately we've lengthened out that lineup and some guys are swinging the bat very well."
Though he was a mainstay of the Rangers' most successful teams early in the decade, Hamilton, who was reacquired in a trade with the Angels on April 27, has only been back with the Rangers a week. So he could be forgiven for thinking things have been this peachy all season.
"It feels like old times, it really does," said Hamilton, who collected his eighth career walk-off hit Sunday. "A lot of fun, coming into Cleveland [last week] not really knowing what to expect from the team as far as the chemistry and stuff because I hadn't experienced it. … Coming back home and having some good games against Boston and then having a game like today reminds you of some good times for the Rangers."
The Rangers went 19-11 in May after a 7-14 start in April. They hit 63 points higher (.273) in May than in April (.210). They averaged 5.3 runs per game in May after averaging 3.6 in April.
"We're playing better baseball, getting more timely hits like today -- that makes a big difference," said Prince Fielder, who scored the winning run from first after being intentionally walked just before Hamilton came to the plate.
Hanser Alberto scored the tying run a few seconds before Fielder crossed, having reached on an error by Boston third baseman Pablo Sandoval to start the inning.
After Fielder walked, Hamilton, given a day off for the first time by Banister, entered the game for Adam Rosales against Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. Hamilton took a ball, swung and missed at a splitter, then laced the game-winning hit into the gap in left field.
After trailing the Red Sox since the game's second batter, the Rangers poured out of the dugout to surround Hamilton at second base and enjoy the win.
"The in-house celebration was nice, just the way it is in every 'W' -- but the significance of how it ended and the players involved, it was really special and fun," Banister said.
Oddly, Banister wasn't there when the celebration started. He was ejected in the top of the ninth for arguing about a stolen-base call.
"I watched the end of the game in my office," Banister said. "I watched it on TV, but with the delay, I could hear everybody yelling, the crowd cheering, so I knew we at least tied it. I got to watch the big man go across home plate."
Sunday seemed the perfect example of a game the Rangers would have lost in April: They weren't always crisp on defense, which helped the Red Sox grab an early lead; they left 10 men on base and they just couldn't seem to break through against Boston starter Joe Kelly and the three relievers that preceded Uehara.
Ultimately, the Rangers found a way to win anyway, as they did for most of May.
"This month has been a good one for us and we just need to continue to keep building on this month," first baseman Mitch Moreland said. "If we can finish out the season like we played this month, I think we'll be in a good spot."
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.