Orioles witness to Hamilton's historic night

Orioles witness to Hamilton's historic night

Orioles witness to Hamilton's historic night
BALTIMORE -- It was the Josh Hamilton Show in Baltimore on Tuesday night, and unfortunately for the Orioles, they didn't just have a front-row seat to the spectacular offensive showing, they had an all-access pass.

It didn't matter the pitcher, the sequence or the count, as Hamilton homered four times off three different Orioles, setting a new career high with eight RBIs and an American League record with 18 total bases. His phenomenal effort -- a rare enough feat that made Hamilton just the 16th player in Major League history with a four-homer game -- carried Texas to its second consecutive rout, this time a 10-3 win that ensured the Rangers at least a split of the four-game series.

"Obviously, other than the World Series, it's the highlight of my big league career," Hamilton said. "I never hit three before. When I did that, it was like, what a blessing. To hit four is an awesome feeling."

"I'd rather see it from a different dugout," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Hamilton's historic night at the plate. "He's been doing that to a lot of teams in baseball. Not to that extent. ... He's one of the best players in the game. You can see why."

For the previously-high-flying Orioles -- coming off series wins in New York and Boston and off to their best start in seven seasons -- the message after a pair of lopsided losses is clear: this Rangers club isn't going down easy. The Orioles have been outscored 24-6 in the first two games of the series, after allowing just 23 runs in their previous nine games combined. A pitching staff that sparkled as the Orioles climbed to the top of the AL East has struggled against Texas' lethal lineup, as the two-time defending AL champions continue to show why they are one of the most dangerous teams in baseball.

And chief among them is Hamilton, who has homered in five of his last six at-bats, becoming the first player since Carlos Delgado in 2003 to hit four homers in a single game.

Hamilton's five extra-base hits Tuesday night tied the Major League record for the seventh time, and his new AL-record 18 total bases are one shy of the Major League record set by Shawn Green in 2002.

"It was the first time I've ever seen anything like that," Orioles starter Jake Arrieta said of Hamilton, who homered off him twice. "[He's a] very special hitter. He's the kind of guy who really likes to jump on the first pitch, and we know that as a staff. We did him a favor by throwing him too many hittable pitches, first pitch. He didn't miss tonight."

Hamilton's only "miss" was a double scorched off Arrieta in the fifth inning that narrowly missed going over the Camden Yards fence for what would have set the stage for a record-setting fifth homer. Still, his accomplishments were enough to wow both dugouts and the crowd of 11,263 on hand.

"It's like anything else, you do something good or something incredible happens, it takes a little bit for it to sink in," Hamilton said of his performance. "I think when I get away from everybody and I have some time to myself, I think it might then. All I can say, man, is it's an absolute blessing from above to be sitting up here and talking to you about this, to be in some good company. It's just awesome."

The Rangers center fielder first went deep one out into the game off Arrieta, giving Texas a two-run lead it would never relinquish. Hamilton then started a pair of back-to-back homers -- along with Adrian Beltre -- in the third off Arrieta, and doubled off the Orioles right-hander in his third at-bat. Coming off a masterful performance in New York in which no Yankees player reached second base, Arrieta allowed a career-high three home runs and exited after allowing six runs on nine hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings.

Hamilton struck again off lefty Zach Phillips -- who had taken Jason Berken's place on the roster earlier Tuesday -- connecting for a two-run homer one out into the seventh inning, and he hit his fourth homer off sidearmer Darren O'Day with a 1-2 count in the eighth. Hamilton has 14 homers on the season and raised his average to an eye-popping .406.

"He has tremendous torque," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Hamilton's seemingly effortless swing. "He's a tremendous talent. History was witnessed tonight."

Nick Markakis, who drove in the only run off Rangers starter Neftali Feliz with a single off the right-field scoreboard, homered off Robbie Ross in the eighth, immediately after J.J. Hardy hit a solo blast.

Feliz kept the Orioles in fits early, setting a new career high with eight strikeouts along the way. The flame-throwing righty, who worked in the upper 90s all evening, allowed one run in the sixth inning -- his final frame -- holding Baltimore to four hits and two walks.

"There are good players in the big leagues, and they've got a lot of them," Showalter said of a first-place Rangers club that improved to 20-10. "We've made a lot of mistakes, and I think that's it as much as anything. I'd be the first guy to tip my hat to them, but we're capable of better."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.