ARLINGTON, Texas -- Josh Hamilton has two hits in the series, none for extra bases and no runs batted. Are the Texas Rangers worried about the most dynamic hitter in their lineup heading into the most important game of the season?
"I'm never going to doubt his ability to where he's at offensively," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "I mean, one pitch could get the guy locked in and back on time."
Taking Hamilton out of time, or at least contributing to shaking his rhythm, has been a high dosage of breaking balls thrown by Rays pitchers. They're deliberately staying away from the fastball. Why? Check out these numbers from the postseason (thanks to ESPN Stats & Information):
Offspeed: Hamilton is 0-for-8 with four strikeouts on at-bats ending in offspeed pitches. He has seen 30 offspeed pitches, swung at 19 of them and missed on nine of those (47%). Even worse, 11 of those swings were chasing pitches outside of the zone and he missed on seven of those 11 chased pitches. He’s only put four offspeed pitches in play, and just one of those reached the outfield.
Fastball: He is 2-for-6(.333) on at-bats ending in fastballs. He’s seen 27 fastballs, swung at 12 of them and hasn’t missed any. He put six of those pitches in play, five reaching the outfield (2 singles).
"I have to lay off the breaking stuff," Hamilton said after finishing a brief workout on the Tropicana Field turf. "I can't do too much."
The Tampa Bay Rays are encouraged by Evan Longoria's breakout in Game 4 with a homer and two doubles. Longoria missed the last 10 games of the regular season with a strained left quadriceps. Hamilton missed nearly the entire month of September and could still be struggling to get his timing back, Texas manager Ron Washington said.
The good news is that in Game 1, Hamilton dropped the first pitch he saw from Rays ace and Game 5 starter David Price into center field for a base hit.
"It's day-to-day," Washington said. "We understand the fact that he's been out of the lineup for a month, and I don't care who you are, if you haven't stepped in tht box it's not easy to get into a rhythm. But, he's given us everything he has."