Hamilton exits early in dominating win

Hamilton exits early in victory

OAKLAND -- Josh Hamilton had three hits Thursday night, but he fouled a couple pitches off his right foot and finally had to come out of the game in the eighth inning.

By then, he already had three hits -- raising his average to .306 -- and the Rangers were on their way to a 6-1 victory over the Athletics. Dustin Nippert held Oakland to one run over five-plus innings, and Texas now has a 4 1/2-game lead in the hollow battle for second place in the American League West.

Hamilton is day-to-day, as many are at this time of a long season for a team that has been eliminated from the division race and is on the verge of being eliminated from the Wild Card race.

"It's fine," Hamilton said as he limped through the Rangers' clubhouse. "I'll be good to go tomorrow."

Injuries were a significant factor in the Rangers falling out of the playoff race faster than they expected, and they still deal with them in the waning days of the season. Milton Bradley is still out with a strained back, and manager Ron Washington revealed Thursday that Joaquin Benoit is unavailable out of the bullpen because of inflammation in his shoulder -- offering no word as to whether he'll pitch again this season.

Jamey Wright pushes on to the end. The Rangers have ridden him hard all season, and there have been signs of wear lately. But he made his league-leading 69th appearance Thursday night in relief of Nippert and pitched two scoreless innings. Bill White followed with a scoreless inning, and the Rangers avoided having to overuse their bullpen.

"Jamey Wright and Bill White did a great job for us tonight," manager Ron Washington said.

Wright needed a game like this. Without Wright, Texas' bullpen might have been mangled beyond recognition, but it's his ERA that has been getting mangled of late.

Wright had a 3.60 ERA through the first three months of the season, but he has sported a 6.48 ERA since then. Before Thursday night, he had allowed eight runs in just three innings over five appearances.

"Numbers-wise, I can't get caught up in that," Wright said. "It's been a long season. I've been healthy, and I've felt great every time out. It's the first time out of the bullpen for a full season, and I want to finish strong ... get my ERA back down to four. After this season, I can relax and get excited about next season. It will be a lot better."

He is a free agent after the season. The Rangers have a lot of young but inexperienced arms who could fill up the bullpen quickly next year. They have Frank Francisco and possibly C.J. Wilson at the end. Warner Madrigal, Josh Rupe and Luis Mendoza could fill the setup and middle-relief roles, and -- presumably -- Benoit will be healthy and back in the picture next year.

The Rangers have to decide if they need the 33-year-old Wright to give the bullpen some experience and ballast. Just add it to the long agenda for the offseason.

"I would say he's been up and down," Washington said. "The first couple of months he was great, and then for some reason, he lost his command. Jamey's got stuff, he just needs to throw it in the strike zone. He gets in trouble when he walks people."

The question is if Wright's workload has caused that. Not only does he lead the league in appearances, but he's also among the leaders in innings. He has pitched two or more innings in 12 of 69 appearances. Most guys who lead the league in appearances do not pitch more than one inning at a time.

But Wright keeps insisting he is healthy.

"I was looking at the video, and I'm still throwing 94-95 mph," Wright said. "I feel great out there. I'm giving up hits and [tossing] 94-95 miles per hour. I've just got to put those pitches in better spots. As long as I feel strong and healthy and they're willing to give me the ball, it will be fun."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.