Moreland, Hamilton bring it off bench
Clutch hits from sluggers seal Rangers' victory
SAN DIEGO -- Mitch Moreland did not start any of the three games against the Padres and Josh Hamilton hadn't played since Aug. 15.
But both came off the bench and delivered significant hits Wednesday night as the Rangers pulled within two games of the Astros in the American League West with a 4-3 victory over the Padres at Petco Park.
Moreland had the biggest hit with a run-scoring double in the 10th inning, bringing home Elvis Andrus with the go-ahead run. Moreland had entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and struck out, leaving him 0-for-3 off the bench in the series. But he got one more chance after a one-out single by Andrus off losing pitcher Bud Norris.
"I felt in my first at-bat I had sped it up a little bit," Moreland said. "I was trying to do too much. I was hoping to go up in the last at-bat and slow it down a little bit and free it up."
Hamilton made his pinch-hit appearance in the ninth against Padres closer Craig Kimbrel. He came up after a leadoff walk by Will Venable, worked the count full, and then lofted a broken-bat single into right.
"It was a good feeling especially in that situation," Hamilton said. "I wanted to hit the ball hard or have a good at-bat and at least move the runner up."
The Rangers did not score that inning. They had the bases loaded with one out before Kimbrel struck out Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre to escape the jam.
But at least Hamilton showed he can handle the pinch-hitting role. He has been sidelined with a sore left knee and will be limited to pinch-hitting duties for the foreseeable future. That's why the Rangers were thrilled to see him deliver Wednesday.
"That would be a huge plus for us," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "That's what he and I talked about, getting ready to be able to at least do that. If that is the minimum of what he can do for us, he'll still be a force for us. He is a great talent. He can flat-out hit."
Moreland should be done for now as a pinch-hitter. He was on the bench for three days because there is no designated hitter in the National League park and Banister decided to use Prince Fielder at first base for three days.
"It was a situation where we felt Prince was swinging the bat well and we needed to get Mitch some time off his legs," Banister said. "It showed up big tonight. We saw some freshness off his swing and had a good at-bat in the end. Mitch has been going hard all year and this was an opportunity to give him some time down."
It didn't prevent Moreland from being ready.
"It's September, everybody is fighting through some things," Moreland said. "It's one of those things, we were here for three days and I didn't play, but I was trying to be ready when they needed me."