After his long and often-chronicled personal journey from drug abuse that delayed his rise to stardom, and the Rangers' 39-season struggle to reach their first World Series, Hamilton's fifth-inning home run seemed a wonderful culmination. But in Hamilton's eyes, the 4-2 victory over the Giants in Game 3 on Saturday and the delirium that engulfed Rangers Ballpark were merely a beginning.
After Texas lost the first two games in San Francisco, Hamilton was prominent among the Rangers who said his club felt nothing like itself. His homer off Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez was merely part of the American League champs feeling comfortable, the way they had during the playoffs.
"The momentum ... obviously, we're still down one game, but it's shifted," Hamilton said. "We're at home. We've got the fans behind us. We're right where we want to be."
The homer also was another step in Hamilton's growing comfort level vs. left-handed pitchers. Of his five postseason home runs, four have come against southpaws.
"The more Josh goes up there and the more pitches he begins to see, I think he'll continue to swing the bat well for us," manager Ron Washington said.
The homer came three innings after left-handed-hitting Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland hit the first homer vs. a lefty of his career. Of course, Moreland is a rookie who had just 20 at-bats against lefty pitching during the regular season, so it wasn't as if he was long frustrated in such situations.
Hamilton watched Moreland's nine-pitch at-bat -- a battle that included Moreland fouling off five pitches, four with two strikes. Hamilton took that information, fouled off a 1-1 changeup and jerked Sanchez's slider over the right-center-field wall.
|Player 1 (HRs)||Player 2 (HRs)||Team||Season|
|Josh Hamilton (5)||Nelson Cruz (5)||TEX||2010|
|Jayson Werth (7)||Chase Utley (6)||PHI||2009|
|B.J. Upton (7)||Evan Longoria (6)||TB||2008|
|Albert Pujols (6)||Larry Walker (6)||STL||2004|
|Barry Bonds (8)||Rich Aurilia (6)||SF||2002|
"Mitch is stubborn -- he's not going to let anybody beat him. He's got that competitive attitude about him, which is a very good thing as an athlete," Hamilton said. "I saw how he battled him. They were throwing me inside most of the night. Every pitcher I faced did."
The long-term percentages dictate that the Giants go lefty-on-lefty against Hamilton whenever possible. In his career, Hamilton has hit .282 off lefties in the regular season, which is respectable but nowhere near his .325 mark against righties. Hamilton hit an eye-popping .401 off righties to .271 against lefties this season.
But Hamilton is turning all that upside down this postseason. Through 14 games, he is 7-for-22 (.318) with four home runs, a double and eight RBIs against lefties.
"When you've got a guy like Josh in the lineup, they will try to put as many lefties on him as they can," Washington said. "The more he sees, the more comfortable he becomes. You make a mistake to him, he can make you pay."
The homer was a key to the Rangers forcing Sanchez off the mound after just 4 2/3 innings.
"After the [Moreland] home run, [Sanchez] regrouped and he kept them there until the one mistake to Hamilton," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
It's not as if Hamilton feels constantly on a roll against lefties. Before the homer, he had popped out in the first inning and grounded out in the third against Sanchez.
"Just like the Yankees series when I hit the home run off [Andy] Pettite, the one that felt good was the one I flied out to the wall -- I finally stayed square," he said. "I felt like tonight I just stayed square and covered the ball."
Hamilton has handled the attention graciously, and he kept his humor when the team struggled in San Francisco. Even Saturday night, he realized others would make a bigger deal of the homer than he would.
"It was all great," Hamilton said. "I've got some family in town. [The] crowd was good, [the] fireworks were awesome, but that's what we try to do. I mean, we try to entertain folks."