Rangers 5-5 Blue Jays 2-2
ARLINGTON, Texas — With two smooth swings, Josh Hamilton snapped out of his extended power drought.
Now, the slugger’s re-emergence could be even more important to the Texas Rangers as they chase the AL wild card.
Hamilton homered twice after going 23 games and 99 at-bats without a long ball, leading Texas past the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2 on Tuesday night for a doubleheader sweep tainted by all-star third baseman Michael Young’s injury.
Chris Davis, who had a tiebreaking, two-run single to help the Rangers win the opener by the same 5-2 score, added a solo homer in the nightcap along with an infield single that got David Murphy home from second base.
The Rangers gained a half-game in the wild-card race, moving within 3 1/2 of Boston. The Red Sox won 8-4 at Tampa Bay, which dropped 2 1/2 games behind Texas and six behind Boston.
An MRI is scheduled Wednesday for Young, who strained his left hamstring running out a grounder in the third inning of the nightcap. He immediately knew something was wrong, pulling up just after crossing first base.
“It was a little bit of a shock,” Young said. “At this time of the season, missing one pitch kills me.”
Young is the longest-tenured Rangers player. He’s in his ninth season and has never reached the playoffs with Texas.
The Rangers said Young would be re-evaluated after they receive test results. It was unclear how long he might be out.
“I’m optimistic,” Young said. “I’ll be really aggressive with my treatment and try to get back on the field as quickly as possible. Apart from that, I don’t have too many answers right now.”
Hamilton hadn’t homered since Aug. 7 until a 435-foot drive over the Rangers’ bullpen in right-centre on the first pitch of the fourth. An inning later, Hamilton pulled a two-run shot down the right-field line.
“I certainly hope that it got him locked in,” manager Ron Washington said.
Hamilton had a sense of humour about his drought.
“I was hoping I remembered how to jog around the bases. … There was a sense of relief,” said Hamilton, who has been on the disabled list twice this season and has 10 homers. “I was glad I proved myself, that I’ve still got game pop instead of just batting practice pop.”
Brandon McCarthy (6-2) pitched into the seventh inning in his first start since June 4. The right-hander was activated from the 60-day disabled list (stress fracture in right shoulder blade) and allowed one run and three hits in 6 1-3 innings. He was pulled after Lyle Overbay’s RBI double.
Frank Francisco saved both games, giving him 21 in 24 chances.
“It was a long day, especially when you don’t score runs,” said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, whose team won the series opener 18-10. “You score ’em while you can. You can’t split ’em up.”
Both homers by Hamilton came off rookie left-hander Brian Tallet (5-9).
“The second one wasn’t a bad pitch, a fastball in. He just put a great swing on it,” Tallet said.
Davis hit a two-out grounder in the fourth to first baseman Overbay, then beat Tallet to the bag for an infield single. Murphy never stopped running to score from second.
Davis’ 17th homer made it 5-0 in the sixth.
Ian Kinsler hit a leadoff homer in the opener, and the game was tied one-all with two outs in the fourth when Davis singled home two runs with a grounder that skipped under Overbay’s glove.
Dustin Nippert (5-2) allowed two runs over six innings before hard-throwing rookie Neftali Feliz struck out four in two perfect innings.
Three of the punchouts by Feliz were called third strikes with off-speed pitches, the last on Aaron Hill. After a 97 m.p.h. fastball whizzed by Hill’s head, and he fell to the ground getting out of the way, Feliz snapped off a 79 m.p.h. breaking ball to freeze him for strike three.
“It’s unbelievable. I was sitting on the training room table watching it,” Nippert said. “It’s unreal, his stuff. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”Feliz has 26 strikeouts and one walk in 11 appearances spanning 19 2-3 innings since being promoted to the majors Aug. 2. The 21-year-old right-hander had a major league-best 0.51 earned-run average in August, and is now at 0.46.