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Hamilton Homer Takes Rangers Over A's

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Josh Hamilton knew he had a game-ending home run when he hit the ball.

    While the crowd went crazy and his Texas Rangers teammates gathered at home plate to mob him and celebrate their sixth straight victory, 7-6 over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night, Hamilton put his head down and started trotting around the bases. His mind had to wander during what has been an emotional few days.

    Hamilton's two-run homer came two nights after Brownwood firefighter Shannon Stone's accidental fatal fall at the stadium after reaching out to catch a ball tossed his way by the reigning AL MVP.

    "It's been an up-and-down, roller coaster-type weekend, with everything that happened to Mr. Stone and his family. Obviously we're thinking about him and grieving about the situation," Hamilton said. "Tonight takes you from one extreme to the other pretty quick. I feel blessed I had the opportunity to do it."

    Flags remained at half-staff at Rangers Ballpark and players on both teams again wore black ribbons in memory of Stone, who tumbled over a rail and fell about 20 feet to the concrete behind the left-field wall during the second inning of the series opener Thursday night, when he was at the game with his 6-year-old son. Stone died less than an hour later. His funeral is Monday.

    Hamilton connected on a 2-0 pitch with two outs in the ninth off A's closer Andrew Bailey (0-2), a 435-foot shot into the second deck of seats in right field. It was Hamilton's fourth hit of the game, and his 11th homer of the season.

    "I know as soon as I hit it, it was fun," Hamilton said.

    Elvis Andrus reached on an infield single that first appeared to be a game-ending grounder. Second baseman Jemile Weeks' soft throw was a bit late and wide to first baseman Conor Jackson and when Jackson reached out to try to catch the ball, the speedy Andrus collided with him and both players went to the ground.

    "I hit it in the right spot. I want hard as I could to get on base," Andrus said, knowing Hamilton was waiting on deck. "He's carried this team the last three or four years. ... I get on base, and everybody saw what he can do when he's under pressure."

    The only other six-game winning streak for the AL West-leading Rangers came when they opened this season 6-0.

    "The last six days, we're starting to play the way we're capable of playing," manager Ron Washington said. "I don't think they lack confidence in that clubhouse."

    A day after Stone's fall, Hamilton chose to play Friday night instead of taking the day off Washington offered him.

    He went 1 for 5, and in the sixth inning fouled off a ball that hit a fan in the head. The fan, who wasn't paying attention, needed stitches to close the cut but was OK.

    Before his second career game-ending homer Saturday -- coming exactly three years to the date after his other one in 2008 against the Los Angeles Angels -- Hamilton had a pair of doubles, a single and drove in a run with a groundout.

    "You've got to get ahead. You can't fall behind to that guy 2-0. He's one of the best players in the game. You can't put yourself in that position," Bailey said. "He's looking fastball, he put a good swing on it and we lost. You've got to tip your cap to him."

    It was the first time since that 2008 game that Texas won at home after trailing with two outs in the ninth. The Rangers were 0-30 this season when trailing after eight innings.

    Adrian Beltre, who will start for the AL along with Hamilton at next week's All-Star game, also homered for Texas.

    Beltre will replace Alex Rodriguez in the starting lineup after the New York Yankees' third baseman withdrew from the game because of a right knee injury.

    Coco Crisp and Josh Willingham homered for Oakland (39-52), which lost for the 12th time in 17 games and fell a season-worst 13-games under .500.

    Crisp's fourth homer, a solo shot in the seventh off reliever Tommy Hunter, had given the A's a 6-5 lead.

    Both starting pitchers -- Oakland's Brandon McCarthy and Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis -- allowed five runs over six innings.

    Lewis struck out nine, but was gone after throwing 105 pitches and missed a chance to join teammates C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando as nine-game winners before the All-Star break.

    Darren Oliver (2-5) worked 1 2-3 scoreless innings.

    Oakland went ahead with a four-run second, the final run coming home when Hideki Matsui reached on catcher's interference with the bases loaded. Matsui hit what appeared to be an inning-ending infield popup, but home plate umpire Eric Cooper immediately signaled the play dead and catcher Yorvit Torrealba tabbed his chest protector as if to acknowledge his mistake.

    Josh Willingham led off the second with his 11th homer before Cliff Pennington and Weeks had consecutive RBI singles.

    Texas had a four-run outburst in the fifth. Beltre capped that with his 18th homer, a solo shot that tied the game at 5-all after he almost fell down coming out of the batter's box.