Josh Hamilton stepped to the plate with a rueful smirk while boos cascaded down from the Angel Stadium stands. The slugger looked at Angels catcher Chris Iannetta and grinned.
"It’s just like (when) I was playing here," Hamilton said. "They booed me when I was here, and they boo me when I’m not here. So it’s all good."
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Hamilton didn’t mind the abuse when he could help the Texas Rangers to a win.
Hamilton doubled, singled and scored two runs in his return to the Big A, and Texas got 7-plus outstanding innings of four-hit ball from Colby Lewis in a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.
Hamilton was jeered whenever he stepped to the plate or touched the ball at the stadium where he played the previous two seasons after signing a five-year, $125 million free-agent deal with the Angels. The former AL MVP was traded back to Texas three months ago following two dismal years in Orange County during which he profoundly frustrated Angels fans.
"The reaction from the crowd was exactly what I expected," Hamilton said. "Wasn’t too bad. Wasn’t good, either."
Hamilton had just his second multi-hit game of July despite the frosty reception. He chatted frequently on the field with his former Angels teammates, and he also figured in both of the Rangers’ scoring rallies, with his double off the right-field wall starting the Rangers’ decisive three-run surge in the fifth.
"I think he handled it fine," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "He’s probably been booed in other stadiums before. He had a lot of energy, smile on his face, and enjoyed the game."
Hamilton also chatted extensively on the field with Mike Trout, who hit his 29th home run to pull even with Albert Pujols atop the AL homers race.
"Everybody knew he was going to get booed," said Trout, who publicly supported Hamilton after the slugger’s latest struggle with sobriety led to the trade. "But we’ve turned the page over here, and he’s turned the page since he’s been over there. He’s in a new place, and I’m sure he’s happy over there."
Trout also had a run-scoring single in the eighth for the Angels (54-42). They have lost two straight after winning 17 of their previous 20, allowing Houston (55-43) to pull virtually even atop the AL West.
Robinson Chirinos drove in two runs for the Rangers, who jumped on Angels fill-in starter Nick Tropeano to win their third straight.
Lewis (10-4) shook off his dismal career history against the Angels to dominate their surging lineup, striking out nine while yielding only three infield singles and Trout’s solo homer in the fourth.
After retiring 15 of the first 17, Lewis gave up two singles leading off the sixth. He calmly struck out Kole Calhoun, Trout and Pujols, who have all hit superbly against Lewis in the past.
"I just tried to go from pitch to pitch there, read swings and throw a bunch of sliders," said Lewis, who gave up 12 hits and 10 runs to the Angels on July 5. "It’s a good lineup, especially the middle of the lineup."
Tropeano (1-1) pitched seven-hit ball into the seventh inning of his second start for the Angels. He retired 13 straight Rangers before the double by Hamilton, who scored from third after Tropeano’s pickoff throw to first got past C.J. Cron.
Trout delivered a two-out RBI single off Keone Kela in the eighth, but Pujols took a called third strike moments later with two runners on. Pujols went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
Shawn Tolleson pitched the ninth for his 16th save.
Tropeano was optioned back to Triple-A Salt Lake after the game to make room for infielder Conor Gillaspie, acquired from the White Sox earlier in the day. Gillaspie could get starts at third base while David Freese’s broken finger heals.
Rangers: C Carlos Corporan (sprained thumb) took batting practice. He is expected to be activated next week.
Angels: RHP Jered Weaver won’t return early next month after missing the last month with a hip injury, but shouldn’t be out much longer.
Rangers: Yovani Gallardo (7-9, 2.91 ERA) has lost three straight starts despite his tidy ERA.
Angels: Hector Santiago (7-4, 2.30 ERA) began the weekend with the AL’s third-best ERA.