Kapler surpasses hitting record

Monday, August 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON – Vladimir Guerrero. Luis Gonzalez. Shawn Green. Shannon Stewart.

They are some of the most talented hitters in baseball. Until Sunday, they were also the only players to hit in 26 consecutive games since the start of last season. With a sixth-inning, bases-empty single in the Rangers' 4-2 loss to Boston, Gabe Kapler joined them.

In that looping little single over third base may lie the most encouraging news for the Rangers about Kapler's hitting streak and his second-half surge.

With each passing day, it becomes more and more likely that Kapler is celebrating his baseball bar mitzvah, maturing into the man the Rangers envisioned when they asked for him in the Juan Gonzalez trade last November.

"Whether he's a Hall of Famer or a one-year flash, he's joining elite company," Rangers manager Johnny Oates said. "Every day he keeps it going he eliminates more people. This kind of record leaves no room for error."

Commoners can occasionally throw together the odd 20-game hitting streak, but the upper reaches of the 20s and beyond are usually reserved for hitters with staying power.

The Rangers expect Kapler to also be a star, even though he had to make an adjustment to his swing and struggled with a leg injury early in the season.

Since the All-Star break, however, he has seen the results from that adjustment on a daily basis. During the streak, which began on July 17, he is hitting .375 (39-for-104) with 10 multi-hit games and 21 RBIs.

The adjustment he worked on with hitting instructor Rudy Jaramillo allows him to come through his swing without sapping his strength on inside pitches. That came in handy Sunday.

Kapler appeared to get jammed on a fastball from Tomo Ohka, but still dumped the ball over third base for a single.

"That's the kind of pitch that a month ago probably gets me out," Kapler said. "But, at the same time, there are a lot of pitches that I've been looking for in the last month that probably would have gotten me out. I just feel more comfortable and expect to hit the ball hard every time."

Kapler hit the ball harder in his other three at-bats, but had only a line drive sacrifice fly to show. He also flied out to center and to deep right field.

Kapler's hit brought the crowd of 28,927 to its feet, but they had little else to cheer. Boston scored all of its runs in the third off starter Kenny Rogers.

AL batting leader Nomar Garciaparra had the most damaging hit, a two-run, two-out single on a 1-and-2 curveball.