Josh Hamilton hits four home runs as Rangers rout Orioles, 10-3
There are few times when a visiting player comes to Camden Yards and puts on such a spectacular show that he turns the fans in his favor.

But Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, the 1999 No. 1 overall pick who overcame the depths of drug and alcohol abuse to become one of the game's top sluggers, orchestrated one of the most magnificent power displays in baseball history in the Rangers' 10-3 win over the Orioles on Tuesday night.

He gained a share of fans along the way. When Hamilton rounded the bases in the eighth inning -- becoming the 16th player in major league history to hit four home runs in one game -- those who remained of the announced 11,263 on hand at Oriole Park offered their appreciation by giving Hamilton a standing ovation. The crowd gave another ovation when Hamilton took his spot in center field for the bottom of the eighth.

"When I came out after the fourth one, the crowd and appreciation lets you know that they are true baseball fans," Hamilton said. "They are not only fans of their own team, but they love the game and appreciate it when somebody does something of that caliber. And it's a special feeling -- you're running out in the opposing stadium, and the crowd is just appreciating how you play the game and what you've done."

Other than playing in the World Series the past two seasons, Hamilton -- who now leads the majors with 14 homers -- called it the highlight of his big league career. He became the first player in nearly a decade to hit four homers in one game. The Toronto Blue Jays' Carlos Delgado hit four homers against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Sept. 23, 2003.

"It's tough to hit four home runs in [batting practice], and he did it in a game," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said.

Hamilton finished the night with an American League-record 18 total bases -- he added a fifth-inning double to his four homers -- one shy of the major league record set by the Los Angeles Dodgers' Shawn Green on May 23, 2002. Hamilton's five extra-base hits tied a major league record.

As Hamilton, who was the top overall pick as a high schooler in Raleigh, N.C., in 1999, hit homer after homer, the heckling he was receiving in center field began turning into hoorays.

"I get worn out [by fans] here in Baltimore," Hamilton said. "As the game went on, I found I was getting worn out less and less in the outfield."

It was also the first time in Camden Yards' 20-year history that a player has hit four homers and just the second time it has happened against the Orioles. The Cleveland Indians' Rocky Colavito hit four against Baltimore on June 10, 1959.

"It was the first time I've ever seen anything like that," Orioles starter Jake Arrieta said. "Very special hitter."

All four of Hamilton's homers were two-run shots, and he sent three to straight-away center field. His eight RBIs were a career high.

"We witnessed tonight," Rangers manager Ron Washington said simply.

In the first two games of this four-game series, the Rangers have exposed the Orioles' pitching staff, which has allowed 24 runs the past two nights after allowing 23 in the nine games before the series.

The Orioles had received quality starts in 10 of 12 games, but Baltimore starters have allowed 13 earned runs in the past two games against the Rangers, a span of 11 1/3 innings.

Two of Hamilton's homers came off Arrieta, who allowed a career-high three homers on the night. He also yielded a solo shot to Adrian Beltre immediately after Hamilton's homer in the third inning.

"He's the kind of guy who really likes to jump on the first pitch, and we know that as a staff. I think it was just [that] we did him a favor by throwing him too many hittable pitches," Arrieta said. "He didn't miss tonight. You got to tip your cap to him, but we got to do a better job -- me especially -- making better pitches early in the count to him."

Arrieta wasn't the same pitcher who threw eight shutout innings in his previous start against the Yankees last Wednesday, not allowing a New York base runner to reach second. He allowed a season-high six earned runs on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings.

After walking his second hitter of the night, shortstop Elvis Andrus, on five pitches, Arrieta hung a first-pitch curveball to Hamilton, who sent it far over the center-field fence.

After Andrus reached on a bunt single in the third, Hamilton took a high 2-0 fastball over the outer part of the plate the opposite way to left field to put the Rangers up 4-0. That was followed by a solo blast by Beltre to right field.

"You can't put Andrus on right in front of Hamilton," Arrieta said. "If he's going to hit a home run, it needs to be a solo home run there. We got to limit the damage when he's at the plate, especially with guys on base. They got a lot of great hitters in their lineup, so when you make mistakes -- especially behind in the count -- they are going to put good swings on the ball."

Hamilton homered off left-hander Zach Phillips, called up from Triple-A Norfolk hours earlier, in the seventh inning, taking a 78 mph changeup to center field.

In the eighth, Hamilton took right-hander Darren O'Day deep and rounded the bases to cheers from the Orioles faithful.

"I can say that was the worst pitch of my career," said O'Day, who was a teammate of Hamilton's in Texas last season. "Guy's already got three bombs and I had him 0-2, and I throw it right over the middle. I couldn't have soft-tossed it any better to him. I'd like that pitch back for sure. You can't say enough about the day he had."

The game featured seven homers total, with the Orioles getting back-to-back home runs from J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis in the eighth inning.

Rangers starter Neftali Feliz held the Orioles to one run on four hits over six innings, striking out eight.

eencina@baltsun.com

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