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Hamilton on Triple Crown pace after big week
ARLINGTON, TEXAS (AP) - The numbers for Josh Hamilton are just mind-boggling.
After the Texas Rangers slugger had maybe the best week ever in baseball, there will be talk about the single-season home run record. Maybe even the Triple Crown, something as rare as his four-homer game.
Hamilton led the majors with a .402 batting average, 18 home runs and 44 RBIs entering Monday's games.
"He's a tremendous talent, nobody has ever doubted it," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "When you see him put it together the way he has here, some guys get hot and some guys do what he's doing."
Hamilton put together an incredible seven-game span when he was 14 of 30 (.467) with two doubles, nine homers and 18 RBIs. His big week was capped by an RBI single in the seventh inning Sunday night in a 13-6 win over the Los Angeles Angels. He had a two-run double with a pink bat for Mother's Day earlier in the game, but in that last plate appearance cracked the bat he had used to hit eight of his last nine homers.
Instead of the scrap pile, the record-setting bat is headed to the Hall of Fame. That is after fans attending Monday night's game had a chance to pose for pictures with it.
"Honestly, I don't even think about it at all until I see somebody and they remind me of it, or I talk to (media) about it," Hamilton said of his run. "I said after (the four-homer game), dealing with the historic part and talking to everybody, that it was over with. ... That's the only approach I have every day when I get here: do my work and try to have a good game."
The slugger, who can be a free agent for the first time after this season, became only the 16th major leaguer with that four-homer game last Tuesday at Baltimore. To put the rarity into perspective, there have been 21 perfect games.
Hamilton also homered in two other games in Baltimore. When Texas returned home to play the Angels, he had a two-homer game Friday night and went deep again Saturday. Frank Howard and Shawn Green are the only other players with nine homers in a six-game span.
"There are not many guys I've seen over the first 20 percent of the season who have swung the bat just with the consistency he has," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I'm sure he's gone on stretches where he's hit like that. ... But where he is, he's locked in."
What Hamilton isn't getting caught up in are the numbers. Or the possible pursuit of Barry Bonds' 73 homers in 2001 or being baseball's first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski became the 15th player to do it in 1967.
If he was able to stay on this unbelievable pace all year, Hamilton could have more than 80 homers and 200 RBIs.
"I say we just take in what he's doing now and enjoy the ride," said Michael Young, the longest-tenured Ranger in his 12th season.
Hamilton led the American League with 130 RBIs in 2008, his first season with the Rangers. He led the league with a .359 average in 2010, when he was the AL MVP and the Rangers won their first AL pennant before he got a $24 million, two-year deal that covered his final two arbitration-eligible seasons.
While insisting it will be a business decision, Hamilton has said he won't let his contract situation become a distraction. Daniels won't comment on any potential negotiations with Hamilton or any other player.
The Rangers and Hamilton's agent have had some talks during the season, but had put contract discussions on hold this winter after the slugger's admitted one-night relapse with alcohol.
After being the No. 1 overall draft pick by Tampa Bay in 1999, Hamilton missed more than three full seasons in the minors and served several suspensions because of drugs and alcohol. He didn't make his major league debut until 2007 with Cincinnati, and was traded after that season to Texas.
Hamilton, who turns 31 next week, said his focus isn't on the prospect of free agency next winter. He's more concerned with trying to play about 150 games, a total he surpassed only in his first season in Texas.
"I think about staying healthy first and foremost," he said. "This is the first year I've never really set any goals for myself. I usually cap everything at like .300, 30 home runs, 100 RBIs. This year, I'm just going out and playing. Where they end up, they end up."
He played only 89 games in 2009 because of an abdominal tear and a pinched nerve in his back. He missed a month of his MVP season with broken ribs after crashing into an outfield wall making a catch. He was out six weeks last year after he broke a bone in his arm diving headfirst trying to score on a foul popout, and had surgery for a sports hernia after the World Series.
"Josh is a big, strong man and he plays hard," Young said. "If we can figure out a way to keep him on the field for 150, 155-plus games, we're going to be really, really happy with what we see."
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