Looking for throwback Kinsler and Hamilton.

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Prepped by every
writer in town, if not by our own eyes, we were all looking for the same thing
last night, aside from a win to get this 13-of-16-at-home started off right: a hint
that Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton were poised, one after four days away from
the game and the other after a corner turned at the All-Star Game, to put
disappointing first halves behind them and reignite a sluggish offense.

 

In spite of
a 5-2 deficit through three innings (and a brutal second-inning 0-2 call by
plate umpire Jim Wolf that cost the Rangers two runs), I was in a good baseball
mood.

 

In the
first inning, on the second pitch he saw, Kinsler did what he hasn’t done much
of since April, blasting a pitch on the ground, through the box, for a crisp
single.  (As for his steal of second and
taking of third on the errant throw from catcher Joe Mauer, that’s just Kins
being Kins.  That part of his game hasn’t
wandered.)  Kinsler leads baseball in fly
balls hit (his 158 is well ahead of Bengie Molina’s 144 and Vernon Wells’s 133),
and that’s not a category you want an offensive igniter and disruptive baserunner
anywhere near the top of. 

 

Hamilton homered inside the right field foul
pole linearly.  The ball exploded off the
bat and would have been a terrible punt, devoid of any hint of hang time.  The shot had 2008 written all over it.

 

Kinsler led
off the third by once again taking a pitch, and following with a smash to
center field, caught on a line for an out. 
Great-looking swing.

 

Two batters
later, Hamilton
worked a 3-1 count and rifled a single to center.  Hard.  Great
at-bat.

 

The inning
ended in the next at-bat, and Texas
remained down, 5-2, but I was starting to think about a second-half offensive
resurgence for this lineup.

 

But then
Kinsler popped out to center with a man on first in the fifth.  OK.  It’s
a process.  Everyone gets outdueled from
time to time.

 

After a Michael
Young shot to third that Elvis Andrus turned into a single by beating Joe Crede’s
throw to second, Hamilton
shot a grounder through the infield to center, scoring Andrus and making it a
5-3 game.  All three runs had come
courtesy of Hamilton’s
bat, reminiscent of any number of 2008 games.

 

In the
bottom of the seventh, Kinsler swung wildly at a two-strike pitch that nearly
hit him, a tailing Bobby Keppel fastball that was a foot inside. 

 

Hamilton
led off the eighth looking at strike three from lefthander Jose Mijares, capping
off a 3-for-4 night without further heroics.

 

In the
ninth, Kinsler, the would-be tying run, ended the game walking back to the
dugout as Mauer squeezed a pop-up behind the plate.

 

Those first
two Kinsler at-bats looked so good.

 

MUTRIHOF
(8-2, 3.83) gets a chance to help even the series tonight against Twins
righthander Scott Baker (7-7, 5.42). 
Kinsler is a lifetime 2 for 7 with a walk off Baker, both hits for
singles.  I’d very much like to see a
couple more singles and a walk tonight.  Grab
the extra bases on foot rather than with the bat.  Leave the slugging to Hamilton, for instance,
who in one career game against Baker (April 26 last year) singled the opposite
way, doubled the opposite way with the bases loaded, and walked with a man on.

 

Lots of
good stuff from the farm last night.  I won’t
steal Scott’s thunder by running it all down, but of relatively immediate interest
are two things:

 

Neftali
Feliz came in on the eighth inning of Oklahoma
City’s 9-7 win (with the RedHawks down at the time,
7-3), and threw 17 pitches, 11 for strikes. 
He retired Round Rock’s 4-5-6 hitters in order, on a strikeout swinging,
a grounder to first, and another strikeout swinging.

 

Notably, it
was Feliz’s first time to pitch on a second straight night.  On Thursday he’d given up a single to start the
eighth before holding Express first baseman Mark Saccomanno on well enough to
allow catcher Kevin Richardson to gun him down on an attempted steal, then
coaxed a popout to second and a groundout to shortstop.  Ten pitches, six strikes.

 

Two quiet
eighth innings.  Having passed the
consecutive nights test, pretty soon Feliz is going to be showing up, maybe not
immediately in the eighth inning but soon thereafter, wearing a cap with a “T”
on it.

 

Chris Davis,
through five innings last night, drew a walk, struck out on a hit-and-run, and grounded
into a double play started by the shortstop. 
Not a great start to his game, but I added the placement of the double
play grounder for a reason.

 

In Davis’s next three at-bats, Davis doubled to left.  Doubled to left.  And doubled to left.

 

Davis is now hitting .395/.455/.684 since
returning to AAA, not only with hits in eight of his nine games but in fact
just about two hits per game in those eight. 
He’s obviously seeing the ball well and has something straightened out
mechanically, as he’s going the opposite way again, just like he did with
regularity in 2008.

 

When I tune
into Rangers-Twins tonight, I’ll be looking for a little more of that “just like
he did with regularity in 2008,” from the leadoff hitter and the number three
man.

 

 

You can read more from Jamey
Newberg
at www.NewbergReport.com.

 

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