The Week Ahead: Can Hamilton be contained?

The Week Ahead: Can Hamilton be contained?

As a new week dawns in Major League Baseball, fans, players, and, most of all, American League pitchers, have to wonder: Can anything slow down Josh Hamilton?

After what he did last week, one has to wonder if the Rangers center fielder is vaulting right before our eyes into some strange, otherworldly baseball stratosphere that hardly anyone has ever visited.

The numbers from the past seven days are astounding: a batting average of .467 (14-for-30) with nine homers, including four in one historic game, plus two doubles and 18 RBIs. The overall numbers for the season are just as impressive, if not more so: a .402 batting average, 18 homers and 44 RBIs.

Barring injury -- always a concern with Hamilton, who's had his share of bumps and bruises throughout his six years in the big leagues -- where might this all lead?

The Rangers would probably prefer one part of the answer to that question in the form of a contract extension prior to September or October. Texas, on top of the AL West, and has plans on taking it one step further than World Series runner-up status that it has had to settle for the past two seasons.

Hamilton can become a free agent at season's end, and given the monster contracts awarded to Albert Pujols (10 years, $240 million) in Anaheim and Prince Fielder (nine years, $214 million) in Detroit, and the statistical lunacy Hamilton seems to be authoring on a nightly basis, one can only imagine what his asking price might be.

"I'm not stressed out about it, and I'm not letting it be a distraction," Hamilton said after tying a Major League record by hitting four homers in a game last Tuesday.

"I just want to keep playing good and putting up good numbers."

We'll see what he does this week.

Meanwhile, what is one supposed to make of Pujols?

Another lost week for the Angels' new main man has him at .196 with one home run and 12 RBIs. That's for the season, which can't be called "early" anymore. Pujols is down, but he's trying to remain positive.

"When you're high, they want to praise you, and they want to tell you you're the best," Pujols said recently. "When you struggle, you all of a sudden [stink]. So how can you go from being one of the best to [stinking]? That doesn't have any explanation. That's why I don't like to get too caught up in that.

"It's almost like you know who your real friends are when you go through some tough times. That's how I look at it."

And to add worries to the wounds, the player the St. Louis Cardinals picked up to replace the departed Pujols in its lineup, outfielder Carlos Beltran, is proving to be one of the better free-agent signings around. Beltran was Hamilton Lite last week, hitting .360 (9-for-25) with a mere six homers plus a double, a triple and 13 RBIs. He's leading the National League with 13 home runs.

"Right now, I'm just seeing the ball good and making good contact," Beltran said on Saturday. "Sometimes you have good days and bad days, so you have to take advantage when you feel good at the plate."

He's not the only one doing that. Several players are worth watching to see if they can keep their hot streaks going this week.

Take Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, for example, who hit .500 (11-for-22) to raise his average from .263 to .299, and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who went 11-for-21 to go from .302 to 339.

And what about Brandon Inge? After moving to Oakland from Detroit, he homered four times in five games and drove in four runs in four of five games Sunday through Friday.

"Honestly, it's just about being relaxed and going out there and playing and having fun, being comfortable around a group of guys that make me feel comfortable," said Inge, who might see limited action this week because of hamstring tightness.

What else is there to discuss for the week that will be? How about matchups?

The Orioles scuffled a bit last week, going 3-4, but they're still 22-13 and in first place in the AL East. They'll host the Yankees in another key AL East showdown, albeit for only two games, while the Tampa Bay Rays head across the border to battle the Blue Jays. Later in the week, the Yanks get the Blue Jays and the Rays meet the Red Sox.

And finally, speaking of the Red Sox, does anyone need a good outing more than Boston starter Josh Beckett?

First the veteran gets pushed back because of a lat strain, then he gets called out for hitting the links with teammate Clay Buchholz on his off-day and defending his right to get in 18 holes on said off-day. Then he gives up seven hits and seven runs over 2 1/3 innings against the Indians. Ouch.

On Tuesday, Beckett is scheduled to face the Mariners at home, and the reception from the Fenway Park crowd and the Seattle hitters could have an impact on the rest of his season.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB and read his MLBlog, Youneverknow. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.