Hamilton, Rangers beat Braves rookie in debut

Randall Delgado sure never faced a hitter like Josh Hamilton in the Double-A Southern League.

The Texas slugger hit a towering two-run homer off the Braves rookie in his major league debut Friday night, sparking a four-run fifth inning that sent the Rangers to a 6-2 win in an interleague series opener at Turner Field.

“Different world," said Delgado, 21, who was charged with four runs (three earned) and seven hits in four-plus innings. "At the same time, it’s the same – baseball."

He added in Spanish, "Just got to make good pitches.”

It was the fourth loss in five games for the Braves, who scored three runs or fewer in each defeat. They fell to 5 1/2 games behind National League East-leader Philadelphia, pending the outcome of the Phillies’ late game at Seattle.

Delgado was brought from Double-A Mississippi to make an  emergency fill-in start for Tommy Hanson, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder tendinitis.

"I was really, really impressed," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Delgado. "He’s got a fastball, a nice little changeup, throws a slider, holds runners well.  For him to face the American League champions and that lineup of professional hitters, I thought he did terrific. I really did."

Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman hit solo home runs off Rangers starter Colby Lewis (6-7), who allowed only three other hits and three walks while striking out 10 in 6 2/3 innings.

Lewis had been scorched for 15 earned runs and 17 hits in just 4-2/3 innings over his previous two starts.

“He pitched well tonight, kept us off-balance," said Freeman, whose sixth-inning homer cut the lead to 5-2. "Back-door cutter, cutters down-and-in, sliders … he was on tonight. Caps off to him.”

Hamilton, the reigning American League MVP, went 4-for-5 for the Rangers, who lead the AL West but had lost eight of 10 games before Friday.

Delgado pitched well until the fifth inning, when he was replaced after the first three Rangers reached base on an error by third baseman Brooks Conrad, the Hamilton blast and an Adrian Beltre single.

“I felt the same in the the fifth inning, I just left my pitches too high," Delgado said, with bullpen coach Eddie Perez translating. "I know that.”

Reliever Cristhian Martinez gave up two more hits before getting the first out of the inning.

Delgado had two walks and two strikeouts, and the last run charged to him scored on Nelson Cruz’s two-run double off Martinez for a 5-1 lead.

It was a hectic 24 hours for Delgado, who didn’t know until just before his Thursday night start for Mississippi that he'd been scratched and summoned to the big leagues.

Some 25 hours later, he was facing the defending AL champions.

“Pretty crazy, but I just tried to control myself," he said. “I was in the bullpen [Thursday] getting ready to throw a game when they told me not to, that I was not pitching because I had to come here. I was warming up.”

Rated the No. 3 prospect in the Braves organization and No. 35 overall in Baseball America’s preseason Top 100, Delgado is a slender Panamanian born in 1990 (Jan. 9). He was 4-4 with a 3.54 ERA in 13 starts for Mississippi, with 64 strikeouts and 26 walks in 73 2/3 innings.

Until Friday, he had never pitched above Double-A and made only 21 starts above Class A.

“Electric stuff," Freeman said. "He’s 94-95 [mph fastballs]. His first start, he came out and threw strikes, gave us what we needed tonight.”

Delgado gave up consecutive doubles to Michael Young and Cruz to start the second inning, then got out of that inning without further damage despite a walk to No. 8 hitter Yorvit Torrealba.

McCann’s leadoff homer in the fourth tied the score at 1-all. It was the 10th homer for the catcher, who has hit .457 with five doubles, five homers and nine RBIs in his past 10 home games.

The Rangers blew it open with four runs in the fifth, and the Braves didn’t get another runner past first base except Freeman on his sixth-inning homer.

Jordan Schafer drew a one-out walk in the seventh and after Dan Uggla flied out, Jason Heyward grounded to third and made a costly base-running mistake. Second baseman Ian Kinsler was not covering the base when Beltre threw to him, but Kinsler was able to throw to first and still get Heyward, who had briefly let up on the play.

Instead of Braves runners on first and second with two out and McCann up, the inning was over.

“In his defense, it [fooled] me, too. Because you see the third baseman going to second base on that ball, and you kind of let up a little bit. The guy wasn’t there [covering second base].

“Like I told him in the dugout, you just can’t assume anything," Gonzalez said. "I said, ‘Jason, it got me also, because I ‘m looking down at the guy at second base to see where the guy is, thinking he’s out. He’s nowhere to be found. You’ve got to [give credit] to Kinsler for turning that play, to have the wherabouts to go to first base with it.

“It’s one of those things. You live and learn.”

Uggla went 0-for-4 to drop his average to .172, worst in the majors among those with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.