On tap.

Josh on tap no more

On and off and on and off

Whatever works, man

Here's the funny thing. When Josh Hamilton started the 2009 season, at the urging of Rudy Jaramillo, by ditching the toe-tap that he used throughout his storybook 2008 campaign, the experiment lasted a dozen games (.229/.283/.354). Readopting the toe-tap for the balance of the 2009 season, he hit a more respectable .274/.321/.438 the rest of the way.

In 2010, maintaining the toe-tap, Hamilton seemed to be going just fine through the end of May (.281/.335/.500). But Clint Hurdle then persuaded him to drop the toe-tap again, and since that time he's a .436/.450/.846 hitter in 39 at-bats.

In his three Rangers seasons, Hamilton is a .293/.352/.501 hitter in 1,104 toe-tappin' at-bats. He's a .322/.355/.575 hitter in 87 tapless at-bats.

It's pretty clear that the key for Hamilton is not whether he's tapping his toe, but instead that his head's right at the plate. Right now, he's as locked in as he's ever been as a Ranger, whereas the last time he went without the mechanism he's going without now, he struggled terribly. He seems like the type of player who can cripple himself by overthinking things. See it, hit it.

We all know Vladimir Guerrero was the all-time Rangers killer in Arlington. In 193 at-bats as a visiting player, he hit .394/.471/.705 in Rangers Ballpark.

This year he's hitting .381/.407/.669 at home.

What a monster.

Speaking of which, the Smoak Monster is hitting .400/.514/.667 in 30 June at-bats.

(I found this interesting: Smoak is up to .222/.339/.389 overall. Frequent comp Mark Teixeira is at .226/.341/.391.)

Meanwhile, Julio Borbon is 13 for his last 24 (.542/.538/.667), and like Smoak just about every one of hits (and several of his outs) lately have been barreled.

But Ian Kinsler is hitting .192/.288/.231 in his last 52 at-bats (and that's with several fluky base hits among the 10 he's had). I'm not sure I can remember him looking this uncomfortable at the plate, mechanically.

Still, no team in baseball is hitting at anywhere near the level that Texas is in June. The club's .329 average is the only mark in the big leagues over .300 this month, and its .499 slug is percentage points higher than Boston's and far ahead of everyone else.

All other things equal, bullpens tend to come into play more often in National League parks, and Tommy Hunter, while not as sharp as he was Saturday when he went the distance against Tampa Bay, gave the club a solid six last night and set up an uncomplicated night for the relief crew. Darren Oliver (three strikeouts), Darren O'Day (one strikeout), and Frankie Francisco (one strikeout) were perfect over an inning each (throwing a first-pitch strike to all but one Mariner over that stretch), and the pen is relatively rested going into this stretch of nine NL games in 10 days, all on the road.

In fact, in the four-game series Texas just completed, O'Day is the only pitcher on the staff who pitched twice (one perfect inning on Tuesday and another on Thursday, 23 strikes out of 31 pitches). That's remarkable.

Hunter's effort was the rotation's third straight quality start, after Colby Lewis (one Seattle run) and C.J. Wilson (two runs) each delivered seven solid innings.

Hunter is going to have a long career starting big league baseball games.

Oliver since May 8: one earned run (0.59 ERA) on eight hits (.160 opponents' average) and four walks in 15.1 innings, with 22 strikeouts. He's fanned nine of the last 13 batters he's faced.

Francisco over the same stretch: three earned runs (1.98 ERA) on nine hits (.188 opponents' average) and three unintentional walks in 13.2 innings, with 23 strikeouts.

Ichiro in the four-game series against Texas: 1 for 15, and an official scorer's changed ruling away from a hitless trip.

But you were betting on Borbon getting five more hits in three games than Ichiro did in four in this series.

Ron Washington plans to start Guerrero in right field every other day in Milwaukee and Florida, getting two starts in each of those three-game series. He hasn't revealed his plans for Guerrero's usage in Houston next weekend.

In 45 at-bats in Milwaukee's Miller Park, Guerrero is a .356/.431/.667 hitter. In Florida's Sun Life Stadium, his slash line is .305/.350/.515 in 167 at-bats.

It looks like Nelson Cruz (hamstring) won't be back Tuesday as planned. He felt some soreness behind his left knee running the bases yesterday, got a cortisone shot, and will head out on a rehab assignment, at the soonest, early next week.

Derek Holland, after cutting a 30-pitch side session short after 17 pitches on Wednesday, says he's fine and should throw again today.

Incidentally, when Oklahoma City righthander Tanner Scheppers makes his first start as a Rangers prospect on Sunday, his Albuquerque opposition will be Vicente Padilla, who made rehab starts for High A Inland Empire on June 3 and June 8. Los Angeles is expected to activate Padilla after Sunday's start.

Brandon McCarthy is back on the AAA disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder.

Righthander Danny Gutierrez, having served out his 50-game banned substance suspension (after testing positive for a prescribed ADHD medication that he didn't secure a therapeutic use exemption for), made his 2010 debut in relief for Low A Hickory last night, giving up a run on a single, double, and two walks in an inning of work.

Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago is at it again, suggesting that Texas has "serious interest" in White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

(Yeah, yeah, Pierzynski gains 10-and-5 rights on Sunday. Too much is being made of that. He already has some level of no-trade protection. And knowing he's not going to be asked back this winter by Chicago, as Tyler Flowers gets closer [despite a current month-long AAA slump], he has plenty of reason to accept a trade to a contender and try to rehabilitate his market value.)

(I still don't want him.)

Cleveland released righthander Jamey Wright.

Boosted by the just-completed 5-2 homestand, Texas has the best home record in the American League (23-11). On the road (10-16), however, only Seattle (8-20) and Baltimore (6-25) are worse.

But Milwaukee (10-17) is the worst home team in baseball, and Florida (17-15) and Houston (14-20) are in the back half as well.

Something's gotta give in these next nine, and with Texas clicking on all cylinders right now, this road trip is set up for the club to get that road W/L healthier and extend what is now a 1.5-game cushion on the Angels and two games on Oakland.

Important road swing on tap.

===========================================================

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title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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