Hamilton sparks Rangers to fifth straight win

Hamilton sparks Rangers to fifth straight win

Hamilton sparks Rangers to fifth straight win
SAN DIEGO -- Ask any Rangers hitter, and you'll hear that the lineup is struggling to meet its offensive potential. Ask any pitcher around Major League Baseball -- most recently Edinson Volquez and the Padres' bullpen -- and you'll hear just how terrifying that Texas lineup is.

The Rangers offense banged out 11 hits on Tuesday at pitcher-friendly Petco Park en route to a 7-3 win over San Diego, the team's fifth straight win and ninth in its last 11 games. Texas was aided in part by four walks from Padres starter Volquez, but aided more by the emphatic return to the starting lineup of center fielder Josh Hamilton. Hamilton added to his league-leading RBI total with a two-run triple in the third, one of two hits for the man who had been out of the starting lineup since Thursday with a stomach virus that cost him 10 pounds.

After the Padres got on the board first courtesy of a Nick Hundley RBI single in the second, Hamilton gave the Rangers the lead right back in the third, rocketing a triple to drive in Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus.

The Rangers would add another run that inning thanks to an Adrian Beltre sac fly, and carry a 3-1 lead into the sixth when Hamilton, again, got things going with a leadoff single. That hit was one of four for the Rangers in the frame, one that saw Texas put up three more runs and take a commanding 6-1 lead.

"It was cool to get back in the lineup and help the team be productive," Hamilton said. "It doesn't take much to spark our offense -- it's always fun to feed off each other."

The Texas lineup did just that Tuesday night. While manager Ron Washington was answering question after question about potential adjustments to his "struggling" lineup prior to the game, Hamilton's return seemed to stabilize the heart of the Texas order, as the Rangers' 3-4-5 hitters (Hamilton, Beltre and Nelson Cruz) went a combined 7-for-13 with six RBIs and five runs.

"He got us that triple to go ahead, and from that point, swinging the bat became contagious throughout the lineup," Washington said of Hamilton. "Cruz swung nice tonight, Elvis and [Ian Kinsler] battled nicely at the top of the lineup, it was a good night offensively."

Beltre finished the evening a triple short of the cycle, with two RBIs and two runs. Cruz reached base three times and drove in a pair of his own. Kinsler also had two hits in the rout.

Even pitcher Scott Feldman got in on the action, smacking a line-drive RBI single to right in the sixth off Padres' reliever Brad Brach. But it was what Feldman did on the rubber, not at the plate, that was most encouraging for Texas. After going 0-6 with a 7.14 ERA in his first seven starts of the season, Feldman turned in a quality start against San Diego, yielding just two runs in six innings while striking out five and walking none.

"I thought he was good tonight," Washington said. "He pitched out of situations, kept the ball down in the zone, kept the ball in play ... that was a very good outing."

Perhaps the only negative to the victory was the loss of first baseman Mitch Moreland to a left hamstring strain in the second inning. Moreland, who gave way to Michael Young after suffering the injury running out a double-play ball in the second, is scheduled to have an MRI Wednesday morning, and will know more about his prognosis following the test and the team's return to Texas on Wednesday night.

"The first time I felt it was when I hit the base, I was trying to lean forward," Moreland said. "Don't really know a whole lot right now, we have the MRI scheduled ... and we'll go from there."

But even Moreland's departure had a silver lining, as Young, who had been 2-for-22 coming into the game, reached base twice with a walk and single.

Volquez (3-7) yielded six runs in five-plus innings of work against the team that traded him to the Reds in 2007. The man on the other end of that deal, Hamilton, certainly got the better of Volquez in this one, though he said he was still feeling the effects of that debilitating virus.

"I was gassed, man," Hamilton said. "I knew I was going to be tired. After the triple, I was literally spent the rest of the game, but it's how I thought it was going to be. It will be better tomorrow and the next day and so on."

The Rangers seem to think the same will be true for their lineup, which Hamilton said hopes to "get rolling." Considering the Rangers are 15 games over .500 and five games up in the American League West, it's safe to say no one in the AL wants to see what that might mean.

Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.