ARLINGTON, Texas — The 2013 season ended for Josh Hamilton on Sunday much the way it started, with the Angels outfielder being booed off his old home field, only this time the former Texas Rangers star had a curious reaction, one that seemed to mock the Ballpark in Arlington crowd.
After flying out in the ninth inning of the Angels' 6-2 loss that pushed Texas into a one-game wild-card tiebreaker against Tampa Bay on Monday night, Hamilton doffed his helmet and saluted fans before going into the dugout.
"It was genuine, there was nothing sarcastic about it," said Hamilton, a five-time All-Star with the Rangers. "It was to let them know that no matter how bad they boo me or bring up things from the past, I still love them."
Texas fans could afford to gloat. Hamilton stumbled after signing a five-year, $125-million deal with the Angels, hitting .250 with 21 home runs, 79 runs batted in and 158 strikeouts, while the Rangers, after a four-game sweep of the Angels, are still playing.
But it could have been worse for Hamilton, who was hitting .217 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs on Aug. 7 before recovering to hit .329 (56 for 170) with five home runs and 27 RBIs over his last 45 games.
"From where I was a month and a half ago, it's something to be proud of," Hamilton said. "Obviously, it's not my caliber of play, but I finished a lot better."
A strong rebound by Hamilton and Albert Pujols, who suffered a season-ending left heel injury in late July, will be required for the Angels to end their four-year playoff drought in 2014. Manager Mike Scioscia likes the chances of both.
"There's no doubt in our minds you're going to see a better Pujols and Hamilton next year," Scioscia said. "Albert will be rejuvenated because he'll be able to do a lot of the things we haven't seen him do in a couple years, at the plate and in the field. And Josh has turned the corner. I think he'll be what we expect next year."
Moments after Tampa Bay nailed down a 7-6 victory in Toronto, a result that forced Texas to win Sunday, Craig Gentry hit a two-run single to center field in the fifth inning to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Hamilton's run-scoring single in the sixth inning tied the score, but Rangers catcher Geovany Soto hit a two-out run-scoring double in the sixth, Ian Kinsler had a run-scoring single in the seventh, and Adrian Beltre and Soto hit home runs against closer Ernesto Frieri in the eighth.
The winner of Monday night's Rangers-Rays game in Texas will advance to Wednesday's one-game wild-card playoff in Cleveland.
"I think it's going to be like last year," said Trout, the MVP runner-up to Cabrera in 2012. "I can't take it away from Cabrera. He won the division and is going to the playoffs, and we're going home."
Trout led the AL in runs (109) and walks (110), and he ranked second in on-base percentage (.432), third in average (.323) and fourth in slugging (.557). He had 27 home runs and 97 RBIs. Cabrera led the AL in average (.348), OBP (.442) and slugging (.636), and ranked second in home runs (44) and RBIs (137) and third in runs (103).
Amid heavy speculation that General Manager Jerry Dipoto, Scioscia or both could be fired, Scioscia has received no assurances he will be back in 2014 or any indication he will be fired.
"I'm sure at some point they're going to let us know," said Scioscia, who has five years and $27 million left on his contract. "It's not an issue at all. I'm sure it will be addressed at some point."
The Angels grounded into three double plays Sunday, giving them 150 for the season, a franchise record. … Frieri gave up six home runs to Texas, five in Arlington, and five against all other opponents.