Rangers' Josh Hamilton finds his groove
ARLINGTON, Texas - Josh Hamilton no longer has a need for Home Run Derby - not during the All-Star break or with impressive pregame batting practice shows. Oh, he can still hit the ball a long, long way. His 468-foot homer in the Texas Rangers' last game was the second-longest ever hit at their ballpark. "It looked like it would clear the whole stadium," Manager Ron Washington said. That impressive shot against Houston ace Roy Oswalt, landing several rows into the upper deck Sunday night, also extended Hamilton's career-best hitting streak to 21 games. And it was his 47th hit this month, tying a team record."At first (this season), I was trying to hit the ball far. That wasn't working too good," said Hamilton, the first overall draft pick by the Rays in 1999. "Now I just try to put the barrel on the ball. I'm working on being more patient, on getting my swing more level." With that approach and the elimination of a toe tap from his swing, Hamilton has hit .477 (41 of 86) during a stretch of more than three weeks. His average was up to .346 and tied for second-best in the majors going into Monday, a day off for the AL West-leading Rangers before a series at the Los Angeles Angels. Hamilton was fifth with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs. "I've been really impressed with his discipline as far as his routine goes," teammate Michael Young said. "The guy can put on BP shows with the best of them, and he's hitting nothing but line drives up the middle in batting practice right now just trying to really work on his craft. ... It's like he's maturing and growing up." Hamilton's hitting surge coincides with a strong push by the Rangers, who are 20-5 in June to build a 4 1/2 -game division lead over the Angels. Los Angeles has won five of the last six AL West titles. The Rangers, who last won the division in 1999, have never been better through 75 games and are only game behind the New York Yankees (47-28) for the majors' best record. Texas is already exactly halfway to team president Nolan Ryan's preseason expectation of 92 victories. "Any time you get momentum going in a positive direction is good for everybody," Hamilton said. "We're having confidence, playing loose and we're bonding more as a team."