"Plus you can't say enough about what Josh has done this whole road trip. He's had some big hits."
Indeed Josh Hamilton has, and he had two more on Sunday as his magic-carpet ride continued in a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros in 10 innings at Minute Maid Park. The Rangers trailed, 4-3, going into the ninth, but Hamilton singled home the tying run and then drove in the game-winner with another single in the 10th to complete a three-game sweep of the Astros.
"This was a huge win for us to get the sweep," said outfielder Julio Borbon, who had four hits, including a leadoff single in the 10th.
The Rangers, who also trailed, 4-1, after two innings, are 3 1/2 games in front of the Angels in the American League West. The Rangers finished 8-1 on the road trip and open up a three-game series against the Pirates on Tuesday at the Ballpark in Arlington.
This is the fifth time Texas has won eight games on a road trip but the first time it went 8-1. Oh yes, the Rangers are also up 3-0 in the Lone Star Series against the Astros, with play resuming Friday night in Arlington.
"That doesn't matter," manager Ron Washington said. "We're just continuing to win ballgames. That's what's important.
"This team is coming together as a group and finding ways to get it done. Today, we found a way to win."
The Rangers won this one with a relentless offensive attack that kept the pressure on the Astros all afternoon. They had 15 hits, drew six walks and had 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Seven of those resulted in base hits, including three singles by Hamilton.
Pitching also helped. Starter C.J. Wilson, overcoming a rough first two innings, went seven innings, and then the Rangers got three scoreless frames from Frank Francisco, Chris Ray and Neftali Feliz. Ray was the winner and Feliz earned his 19th save. Texas pitchers allowed no runs on two hits and two walks over the final eight innings.
"C.J. hung in there and the bullpen did a great job again," Washington said.
Hamilton finished 5-for-6 on the afternoon and was 20-for-39 with three home runs and 10 RBIs on the trip. He also has a 16-game hitting streak. During that streak, he is 31-for-64 (.484) with seven home runs and 23 RBIs.
Hamilton was great in 2008, but this could be the hottest streak he has been on with the Rangers.
"Honestly, I can't remember two years ago," Hamilton said. "I just know I was hot for a couple of months, cooled off for a while and then pulled it together in the end. I just know it's a different mind-set and approach. I'm just not going up there, I'm processing the situation before it happens. I'm thinking ahead and sticking with the plan."
He showed that in his two big at-bats. Kinsler led off the ninth with a single off Astros closer Matt Lindstrom, stole second and went to third when Vladimir Guerrero grounded out to second. That brought up Hamilton, and he had his plan.
"Very simple," Hamilton said. "Don't try to do too much. I kept telling myself that over and over. Just put the barrel of the bat on the ball."
He did. The Astros had the infield in, but Hamilton smacked a grounder up the middle to tie the game. Even with that, the Astros still tried to pitch to Hamilton in the 10th inning with the game again on the line.
Borbon started the inning with a single off right-handed reliever Casey Daigle and went to second on Michael Young's grounder in front of the mound. Kinsler then popped up, and that brought up Guerrero, who was 0-for-5 on the afternoon. The Astros decided to walk him and bring in left-hander Gustavo Chacin to pitch to Hamilton.
"With Chacin's command of his pitches, we thought that would be a better setup for us to deal with," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "We saw Vlad hit a ball four or five inches outside and find a hole. It was a situation where I thought we needed to get the matchup we needed in that situation."
Chacin had retired Hamilton on a grounder to second on Friday night. He did so with an offspeed breaking ball down and away. Hamilton went to the plate thinking Chacin would throw something similar again. He waited patiently for the pitch.
"I definitely knew he was going slider at some point," Hamilton said, "especially with the situation and runners in scoring position. I knew he was going to go down and away."
Chacin, who started Hamilton off with an inside fastball, did so on a 2-and-1 pitch. Hamilton smacked it into right field for the game-winner.
"The way Josh is swinging right now, it doesn't matter who is out here," Washington said. "He's not trying to do too much. Chacin threw one down and away and he stayed on it. He got a single. That's all we needed."
The Rangers kept finding what they needed on this road trip, and Hamilton came up bigger than anybody.