ARLINGTON -- It was a week of anguish for Josh Hamilton, punctuated by a moment of joy.
Hamilton is still grieving for Shannon Stone, a firefighter from Brownwood, Texas, who died on Thursday after falling 20 feet while trying to catch a ball Hamilton tossed to him during the game. Hamilton played through his sorrow on Friday, though manager Ron Washington gave him the option to sit. Hamilton has said since the tragedy that he was putting his trust in his religious faith, and that baseball would provide a distraction from his heartache.
Saturday, it was. With the Rangers trailing by a run in the ninth inning, Hamilton hit dramatic walk-off home run to give them their sixth straight win, 7-6, over the A's. His second career walk-off blast came three years to the day after his first."It feels good," Hamilton said. "Obviously, it's been an up-and-down, roller-coaster type of weekend. Everything that happened to Mr. Stone and the Stone family, obviously, I'm still thinking about them, praying for them, and grieving about the whole situation."
Hamilton didn't look like himself on Friday, going 1-for-5 at the plate. He was back to normal on Saturday, collecting four hits in five at-bats, none more impressive than the 435-foot drive to the second deck in right-center field that gave the Rangers their first win of the season when trailing after eight complete innings.
"He's like he always is," said A's manager Bob Melvin.
No one was happier for Hamilton than his manager and teammates, who doused him in water in the clubhouse after the game to celebrate the occasion.
"I think he missed just a hair of it," Washington joked after the game.
Hamilton said was looking for a cutter outside to start his at-bat in the ninth inning."The approach was one pitch, one zone," Hamilton said. "I figured they'd try to make me chase, throw some heaters away and try to get me to roll over, that type of thing, trying to feed off of the adrenaline of the situation." A's closer Andrew Bailey started Hamilton with back-to-back balls. For the third pitch, catcher Landon Powell set up outside, but Bailey left it on the inside part of the plate. "You can't fall behind that guy 2-0," Bailey said. "Obviously, he's one of the best players in the game. You just can't put yourself in that position. Obviously, looking fastball, and I'm just looking to get back in the count. He put a good swing on it, and we lost." It never would have happened if Elvis Andrus hadn't extended the inning. The Rangers were down to their last out when Andrus stepped to the plate. With Hamilton on deck, all Andrus was thinking about was getting on base and extending the game. "When you're down by one and you've got a big boy, the way he's been hitting lately, I wasn't really trying to do to much," Andrus said. "I was just trying to get on base. He always hits good in the clutch, and it was a very clutch situation." Andrus hit a slow dribbler towards the hole between first and second. A's first baseman Conor Jackson initially took a few steps towards the ball, but when he realized second baseman Jemile Weeks was fielding the ball, raced back to first. "I hit it in the right spot," Andrus said. "I bust myself as hard as I can to get to first base. If Weeks made a good throw, that wouldn't even have been a close play." Because Jackson was out of position, Weeks lobbed the ball toward first to give Jackson time to get there. Andrus beat the throw, then crashed into Jackson. It may not have been pretty, but it brought Hamilton to the plate. "That's the way you play the game," Washington said. "That's it. We're playing the game. Those guys love to play baseball, and I love to watch them." The Rangers overcame a disappointing start by Colby Lewis, who allowed Oakland to bat around in the second inning. The four-run inning loomed large as the A's took a one-run lead in the seventh on a home run by Coco Crisp. The biggest play of the game to that point could have been catcher Yorvit Torrealba's interference on Hideki Matsui's popup with two outs and the bases loaded. Instead of the third out, the A's got their fourth run of the inning. "He hit my glove," Torrealba said. "I was sitting away, and [Lewis] threw up and in. I thought he was going to take that pitch, and then in the last minute, he tried to put it in play." Other than the second inning, Lewis pitched well, giving up five runs on five hits over six innings, while striking out nine. "They worked him pretty good there," Washington said. "They put some stuff together, put some runs on the board, but then he came out in the third inning. He started hitting spots and using his breaking ball."
While Lewis struggled, Hamilton looked like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders as he rounded the bases and celebrated with his teammates at home plate.
"For something like this to happen tonight," he said, "it takes you from one extreme to the other."
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.