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The Alternative to Watching the Rangers Lose Again: Heading North to See Josh Hamilton, Justin Smoak and ... Sean Salisbury?

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The Texas Rangers' offensive woes are almost laughable now as the team last night fell two and a half games back of the Angels, losing 5-2 to Los Angeles after taking a 2-0 lead in the third inning on solo homers by David Murphy and Marlon Byrd. That's a total of just five runs for Texas in its last three games -- all losses, by the way -- which, of course, is why Patrick and I headed up to Frisco to catch two in-house solutions to the problem: rehabbing Josh Hamilton and prospect Justin Smoak.

Hamilton, recovering from his June 9 surgery to repair a partially torn abdominal muscle and appearing in his first game since May 31, helped spark a four-run inning with an RBI single to give the RoughRiders a 5-4 victory over the Corpus Christi Hooks. Both teams are Double-A affiliates of their respective teams, the Rangers and the Houston Astros.

Penciled in as the designated hitter and batting leadoff, Hamilton drew a five-pitch walk in his first at-bat, reached for a pitch to avoid a strikeout in his second time up that became a weak grounder to third, struck out in his third time at the plate and then ignited the sparse crowd with a single in between the first and second basemen to break a 1-1 tie, eventually stealing third base and scoring one of the team's four runs in the seventh inning.

Justin Smoak, the Rangers' first-round pick in 2008, has battled some injuries of his own this year, but the team's top position prospect has been tearing the cover off the ball when he's played (.342 with eight homers and 34 RBI this year in the minors). Like Hamilton, he went 1-for-4 with an RBI single into right field in the seventh inning. With Chris Davis struggling at first base (.206 BA and 109 strikeouts in 72 games), Smoak could get a call-up to the majors sometime after the All-Star break if he stays healthy and productive.

If Hamilton and Smoak weren't enough, we ran into former NFL player and ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury on his way into the game. Salisbury, a Frisco resident who now sits in with Newy Scruggs on 105.3 The Fan, couldn't have been a nicer guy.

"Dude, you're Sean Salisbury!"

"Yes, I am. And who are you?"

"I'm Sam."

"What are you doing here?" he asks me.

"Checking out Josh Hamilton."

"Me too. I was going to head out to Arlington but figured I had a better chance of seeing some runs scored here."

In retrospect, I should have probed him for his hot sports opinions on the effect of T.O.'s departure from the Dallas Cowboys, but I panicked. After some more chitchat, we part ways and then I grab Patrick, who's waiting in line for tickets, and tell him about my celebrity sighting. Patrick says I probably shouldn't have addressed Salisbury as "dude," which is a fair point.

Of course, I run in and catch Salisbury before he heads up to the club level and tell him he's got to meet my buddy because he's his biggest fan. Pictures predictably followed.

Patrick, for the record, is not Salisbury's biggest fan, as you can see by the uncomfortable distance between the two. Me? I haven't had much of an opinion of him until now -- a really friendly guy who thanked us for taking the time to say hi.

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