Josh Hamilton is proving he’s still a valuable offensive weapon.
Now he’ll get to see where he’s at against one of the AL’s top pitchers.
Hamilton and the Texas Rangers dig in Saturday night against Chris Archer and the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.
The former AL MVP is still being bothered by soreness in his left knee, but an MRI earlier Friday cleared him to rejoin Texas’ lineup for the series opener after missing two games.
"Definitely positive, and helped me understand that I can go there and run around and play," Hamilton said.
Hamilton’s .732 OPS is the lowest of his nine-year career, but he launched his sixth homer and hit the go-ahead sacrifice fly in the eighth inning of Friday’s 5-3 victory against Tampa Bay. He’s batting .288 with 13 RBIs in his last 13 contests.
Texas (57-57) won its season-best fifth straight at home and pulled with one half-game of the Rays, who are two games behind the Los Angeles Angels for the AL’s second wild-card spot.
Archer (10-8, 2.62 ERA), who owns the AL’s fifth-best ERA, is 1-4 in his last eight starts but he owns a 2.18 ERA in the last five while striking out 43 in 33 innings. He fanned 10 while allowing three runs over six innings in a 4-3 victory against the New York Mets on Sunday.
His seven double-digit strikeout performances in 2015 are one shy of his 59-start total before this year.
The right-hander was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his first three starts against Texas before giving up five runs in a season-low 3 1-3 innings of a 5-4 loss to the Rangers on May 7.
Adrian Beltre is 1 for 11 with five strikeouts against Archer, while Hamilton is 3 for 10 with a homer.
Outside of a 10-run backing in an 11-3 win against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 4, Tampa Bay’s offense hasn’t done Archer many favors lately – he received four total runs of support in his other four most recent outings.
The Rays (58-57) had their winning streak snapped at four, but were encouraged by Desmond Jennings’ 3-for-4 night. Jennings, who led Tampa Bay with 167 runs from 2012-13, returned after missing 96 games due to knee bursitis.
"Very promising. He looked really good," manager Kevin Cash told MLB’s official website. "His at-bats were good. Squared the ball up … It’s nice to see. He’s going to help us a lot here over the next two months."
Texas’ Colby Lewis (12-5, 4.61) has recorded a quality start in five of his last six games, though home runs continue to be his downfall. He has allowed nine homers in his last six outings spanning 42 innings. The right-hander gave up two while allowing three earned runs in his first complete game of the year in Sunday’s 4-2 loss at Seattle, falling to 5-3 for his career when going the distance.
Lewis has given up two home runs in five career starts against Tampa Bay, going 3-1 with a 3.54 ERA.
Evan Longoria and Asdrubal Cabrera are a combined 3 for 18 against Lewis.
Cabrera is hitting .538 with nine runs in his last 10 games after going 3 for 4 Friday. He’s batting .476 in his past five contests against Texas.