ARLINGTON, Texas – This American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers has become one of superstars, which isn’t always the case in the postseason.
MVP candidates sometimes find themselves out of the spotlight, whether it’s because the playoff glare is too bright, because some virtual unknown steps into it or because the other team never lets you hit.
But the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton and the Yankees’ Robinson Cano have conducted their version of extra-innings MVP while participating in a two-man home run derby.
As the teams await Game 6 tonight in Texas – and possible elimination for the Yankees – Hamilton and Cano have combined for eight of their teams’ 14 home runs and 12 of their teams’ 47 RBIs.
Hamilton is hitting .316 with five walks, Cano .421 with one walk. That could change with today’s pitchers, the Rangers’ Colby Lewis and the Yankees’ Phil Hughes, knowing the importance of each pitch.
“He’s a tough hitter,” Hughes said of Hamilton. “My first start, I walked him three times.”
Said Lewis of pitching to Cano, who has four solo homers: “Try not to make mistakes. Try to make him hit your pitch and hopefully he ‘mis-hits’ it somehow.”
The trouble with pitching around either player – Hamilton is the favorite for A.L. MVP – is the rest of their lineups. Right behind them, now that Cano has moved to third in Mark Teixeira’s absence, are Vladimir Guerrero and Alex Rodriguez, although neither of them has been burning up the statistics sheet.
Neither of the series stars is terribly outgoing about himself, despite hearing chants from the home crowds of “MVP.”
“They are really loud, (but) just focus on the game, we can’t afford to lose the game,” Cano said.
Hamilton missed basically the last month of the season with ribcage pain, then hit only .111 with no homers in the five games against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series.
“Really, the only thing that bothers me is a swing and miss, and I try not to do that,” Hamilton said.