The Rangers beat the Rays in five games in the first round of the playoffs without much offense from Josh Hamilton, their No. 3 hitter and MVP candidate. Hamilton has been a little more productive in the second round. Much to the Yankees' dismay.
Hamilton hit a two-run homer off Andy Pettitte in the first inning of the Rangers' 8-0 win in Game 3 of the ALCS last night. That's after hitting a three-run homer off CC Sabathia in the first inning of Game 1.
"The two balls he hit for home runs were breaking balls we didn't get where we wanted," Joe Girardi said. "We wanted them down and away."
The Yankees were able to rally and win Game 1, but with Cliff Lee on the mound, there was no such comeback last night. Hamilton's homer held up until the Rangers scored six runs in the ninth to cement a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Hamilton started the ninth-inning uprising with a double off lefthander Boone Logan. The Yankees thought they had an advantage with their lefthanded pitching, but Hamilton's three hits in nine at-bats have all come against Yankees southpaws.
He also has walked five times, once intentionally, and had two stolen bases in the Rangers' 7-2 victory in Game 2.
Hamilton, who hit .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBIs in the regular season, went 2-for-18 (.111) in the first round. The Rangers won anyway, and now the centerfielder has joined the party at a bad time for the Yankees.
"That's what he does," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "You might contain him, but you just can't stop him."
Hamilton is playing with a pair of fractured ribs suffered when he crashed into the wall at Target Field on Sept. 4. He returned for the Rangers' final three regular-season games.
"Nobody's 100 percent this time of year," Hamilton said. "So I'm not really thinking about it. The only thing that really bothers me is swing and miss. I'm trying not to do that."
Washington was asked before Game 3 if he was waiting for more offense from Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero, who went into the game batting .214 in the postseason. Guerrero had a single in four at-bats.
"Eventually, I want them to hit more," Washington said. "But we are a group of 25 guys. When someone is down, we have always had each other's back. And as long as we have to keep it together, until we can get Hamilton and Guerrero loose, we are going to keep it together."