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Hamilton eager to break out in prime time

Hamilton eager to break out in prime time

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ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers are playing a night game in Tuesday's Game 5 of the American League Division Series. Now that all the other series are over, the Rangers and the Rays will be playing at night for the first time in their five-game series.

Time for the Rangers to be in prime time, and outfielder Josh Hamilton reacted to the news by giving somebody a high-five.

"Although I didn't do too badly during the day this season," Hamilton said.

Hamilton batted .286 with six home runs, 21 RBIs and a .474 slugging percentage in 133 at-bats over 36 day games in 2010. He played 97 night games and batted .384 with 26 homers, 79 RBIs and a .688 slugging percentage over 385 at-bats.

Certainly a .286 batting average and a .474 slugging percentage qualifies as "not too badly." But a .384 batting average and a .688 slugging percentage qualifies as outstanding no matter what the conditions. The .384 batting average is the third highest at night in the past 30 years.

So that's why Hamilton was handing out high-fives at the prospect of playing at night for the first time this series. Game 5 is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. CT on Tuesday at the indoor Tropicana Field.

"Not that it matters in the dome, but it matters to me that I get some sleep," Hamilton said. "We'll just see."

The Rangers would like to see something from the American League batting champion. He is 2-for-14 with two singles and no RBIs in the first four games of the ALDS.

Of course all of this is coming after he missed most of September with two small fractures in his left ribcage. Hamilton was out from Sept. 4 until returning to the lineup for the final three games of the regular season. He went 3-for-11 with a home run in those three games against the Angels before being deemed ready for the playoffs. But he has still had his share of struggles against the Rays.

"We understand the fact that he's been out of the lineup for a month," Washington said. "I don't really care who you are; if you haven't stepped in that box, it's not that easy to not face live pitching, get into a rhythm. But he's given us everything he has."

Other Rangers have had their troubles at the plate. Michael Young is 3-for-16, Vladimir Guerrero has just one RBI and Texas' first basemen are a combined 2-for-15. But Hamilton is the club's No. 3 hitter and its batting champion. He is the one who gets serenaded with "MVP, MVP" chants in front of the home fans at the Ballpark in Arlington.

Top 10 nighttime batting averages from 1981-2010
Player Team Year Avg.
Barry Bonds Giants 2002 .392
Tony Gwynn Padres 1987 .387
Josh Hamilton Rangers 2010 .384
Tony Gwynn Padres 1994 .383
Wade Boggs Red Sox 1988 .381
Kirby Puckett Twins 1988 .381
Jeff Bagwell Astros 1994 .378
Tony Gwynn Padres 1997 .378
Albert Pujols Cardinals 2003 .376
Wade Boggs Red Sox 1987 .375

"I think Josh is always at the point when he's ready to take off," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "I mean, his skill set is unbelievable. I'm never going to doubt his ability to where he's at offensively. One pitch could get the guy locked in and back on time.

"I wouldn't say he's in a slump or anything like that. You know, last series of the year, he kind of got his rhythm back, and he was swinging the bat well. I don't think anyone is worried about him. Hopefully he has a big game."

The Rangers prepared for Game 5 by holding an optional workout at Tropicana Field on Monday. Hamilton was among the many who attended. He took fly balls in the outfield to re-acclimate himself to the indoor conditions, and then went to hit in the batting cages.

"Everything is good," Hamilton said. "I'm focused on tomorrow. I feel OK. I don't feel great. It is what is, and now I'm facing David Price."

Hamilton had a single off Price and went 1-for-4 in Game 1. He was 1-for-4 in Game 2 and 0-for-4 in Game 3 on Saturday in Arlington. He also failed to get a hit in two at-bats in Game 4, but did draw two walks.

"I had two walks but probably could have had four," Hamilton said. "I tried to do too much jumping out on some breaking balls. You know how it goes when I try to do too much. So the key for tomorrow is not to do too much.

"Just let it happen."

And remember, even though it's an indoor venue, the game is being played at night.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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