matthewpouliot

Josh Hamilton can’t hack it in first game in weeks

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Making his first appearance since Sept. 16 — and just his second since Sept. 4 — Josh Hamilton, returning from shoulder, chest and rib cage injuries, went 0-for-5 in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Royals, four times getting retired by left-handed pitchers. He popped up to third base to end the game in the 11th.

In both the seventh and ninth innings, the Angels worked to set things up for Hamilton; the leadoff man got on and Erick Aybar bunted him over both times, even though there was a left-handed pitcher on the mound. In the seventh, Hamilton hit a routine grounder off rookie Brandon Finnegan. In the ninth, he struck out in a poor at-bat versus Tim Collins.

Manager Mike Scioscia was due to face questions afterwards whether starting Hamilton was the right call. This was actually a pretty good matchup for Hamilton, though; not only did he hit .330 in 91 at-bats against lefties during the regular season, but he had three career homers in 27 at-bats against Royals starter Jason Vargas (albeit with a .222 average). If Hamilton was going to play during the series, then there was no reason not to use him tonight.

Tonight was the lesser question, though. The bigger one is whether Hamilton should be playing at all. We’ll get a better read on that Friday when he faces flamethrowing Yordano Ventura. If Hamilton is overmatched, the Angels should strongly consider trying something different in left field in Game 3, which would probably mean playing Efren Navarro.