Hamilton powering up his value to Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas — On a night when a sluggish Rangers offense was made to look even more drowsy by Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia, Josh Hamilton remained the primary power source for the Rangers offense.

Hamilton sent a Sabathia pitch 422 feet into the seats overlooking the Rangers bullpen in the sixth inning of a 7-4 loss.

It was Hamilton’s eighth home run in 17 games this season, making him the fastest Ranger to reach that homer mark in club history.

The previous record-holder, Alex Rodriguez, was present. Rodriquez reached eight home runs in 18 games back in 2002, the season he hit a career-high 57 homers.

Hamilton’s batting average slipped to a gaudy .408 after going 1-for-4 on Monday, so he’s producing more than just tape-measure shots.

But the pace at which he is hitting home runs is just as impressive as the distance they travel.

“I know when they’re making mistakes he’s not missing them,” Washington said. “I’ve seen him locked in like that before. I just hope he keeps it up.”

Hamilton is one more blast away from tying the Ranger record for home runs in April, which has been achieved four times. The last Ranger to hit nine homers in April was Ian Kinsler in 2007.

Just before he knocked the ball into the seats, Hamilton lost his grip on a swing and sent his bat into the seats as well. The image of Hamilton’s bat helicoptering into the commissioner’s box beyond first base symbolized the Rangers’ frustration with Sabathia to that point.

Hamilton’s homer made it a 7-2 ballgame, ending four straight shutout innings by the Yankees lefty.

“Tip your hat to Sabathia,” Washington said. “He made us swing the bat early, he made some early outs and we got beat.”

The Rangers were playing the day after concluding a nine-game road trip with an extra-innnigs game in Detroit. The Yankees didn’t play Sunday after their game in Boston was rained out.

The Rangers, after going 8-1 on the trip, were due for a letdown, which also showed up in the pitching effort by starter Derek Holland.

But Hamilton, who also made a couple of nice plays in left field, has been displaying a laser-like determination all season.

Perhaps it’s that he’s fully healthy, for once. Or he’s determined to make up for another offseason slip from his sobriety issues.

Or maybe it’s to prove to the Rangers – or anyone else – he is worthy of a long-term deal. The Rangers tabled discussions of re-signing Hamilton, who can become a free agent after this season, in February when he had his slip-up in a Dallas bar.

Yet with each homer, Hamilton’s price goes up. And, except for Monday night, the Rangers’ fortunes have gone up with him.

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire