ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays designated hitter Willy Aybar came up against C.J. Wilson in the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday and hit a long drive to deep center.
Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton took one look at it and went racing for the wall. He was not worried about the two small fractures in his right rib cage, an injury that kept him out for most of September."It never crossed my mind not to go after it or let up," Hamilton said later. "Especially this time of the year when every pitch is intense and you're more ready for anything." Hamilton jumped into the wall, but did not make the catch. It went for a double, only the second hit given up by the Rangers in a 6-0 victory over the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field. Hamilton was disappointed that he didn't catch the ball, although most others were probably just glad he walked away with a smile on his face and a fist bump with right fielder Nelson Cruz. "I would have had a chance, but the roof stinks here," Hamilton said. "To make a catch like that, you have to get back to the wall on a dead run and then pick up the ball again. Here it's tough to pick up the ball again once you take your eye off it." The biggest question was, did Hamilton hurt himself on that play ... or on a diving catch he made it in the second inning on another ball hit by Aybar? "No, it was fine," Hamilton said, giving credit to the rib pads he's been wearing since he returned to the lineup last Friday for the final three games of the regular season. "I felt it, but the pads I wear really absorb the shock and the wall here is not as hard as some others." Hamilton originally injured the ribs falling into a wall on Sept. 4 at Target Field in Minnesota. He also had a similar injury last year when he ran into a wall in Toronto. In both cases, he got his elbow pinned between the rib cage and the wall, and that's what caused the injury. To the Rangers' relief, that didn't happen here. "He didn't hit the wall in any way that caused alarm," manager Ron Washington said. "He's playing baseball. He's a baseball player and he's playing baseball." Rangers third baseman Michael Young said he didn't mind seeing Hamilton chasing down fly balls near the wall.
"I hope he catches every one of them," Young said. "The injury stuff is on the back burner now. I'm sure everybody is going to go on no matter what at this point. We're going to empty the tank for every game. If we're a little banged up or a little hurt, we're pushing on. We're too talented a team to sit there and relax and say this guy is banged up, he doesn't play, or that guy is banged up, he gets pulled out. That's not going to happen.
"We're going to go all out every pitch, every inning, every game, regardless of what happens to us physically."
So Hamilton survived another close encounter with an outfield wall and will be back in the lineup on Saturday for Game 3 in Arlington. The Rangers are working out Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and the plan is for Hamilton to start in center on Saturday."I'm good enough," Hamilton said. "I'll be sore tomorrow. I'm already sore right now. But I'll take a day to do what I can and be ready for Saturday."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.