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Hamilton swings into history with four home runs

Texas star 16th to achieve feat, sets AL mark with 18 total bases
May 8, 2012

BALTIMORE -- Josh Hamilton swung at an 0-2 pitch from a tough sinkerball pitcher, crushing it deep to center through the humid Chesapeake air, over the center-field wall and into Major League history. As he ran around second base on his fourth home run trot of the night, Hamilton saw

BALTIMORE -- Josh Hamilton swung at an 0-2 pitch from a tough sinkerball pitcher, crushing it deep to center through the humid Chesapeake air, over the center-field wall and into Major League history.

As he ran around second base on his fourth home run trot of the night, Hamilton saw what was going on in the Rangers' dugout. It made him smile.

"Just seeing how excited my teammates were, then touching home plate and going into the dugout, the reaction from them was the best part," Hamilton said afterwards. "Getting hugs ... those are the guys you go out and battle with every day. It doesn't always work out, but we give it everything we got."

Hamilton did that on Tuesday night at Camden Yards in one of the greatest single-game offensive performances in Major League history. Hamilton hit a record-tying four home runs and a double in carrying the Rangers to a 10-3 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards.

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

Hamilton is the 16th player in Major League history to hit four home runs and is the seventh player to hit five extra-base hits. The 18 total bases were a new American League record. He is now hitting .406 with 14 home runs and 36 RBIs on the season.

"The best individual performance I have ever seen," Rangers infielder Michael Young said. "I've never seen anything like it. It was fun to be a part of. He's an incredible player."

"What a night ... amazing," manager Ron Washington said. "A perfect night for Hamilton and a perfect night for the Texas Rangers."

Hamilton also hit a home run in his last at-bat on Monday night. He is the first player with extra-base hits in six straight at-bats since Ken Griffey Jr., on July 1-2 1998, and the first player with five home runs in six at-bats since Shawn Green on May 23-24 2002.

"You don't go out and try to do that," Hamilton said. "You just try to do the best you can, and if you break a record ... great. You don't try to do that, you try to be the best player you can be for yourself and your team."

All four home runs were two-run shots. Each one came with Elvis Andrus standing on first base.

"I'm his lucky charm," Andrus said. "Every time I get on base, he hits a home run. That was a lot of fun, I enjoyed that."

Hamilton's barrage began on the first pitch he saw after Andrus drew a one-out walk in the first. Hamilton jumped on a first-pitch curve from Orioles starter Jake Arrieta and hit it over the center-field wall for a two-run home run.

Andrus once again set up Hamilton in the third by reaching on a two-out bunt hit. This time Arrieta missed with his first two pitches before throwing a sinker that Hamilton crushed into the seats in right-center field. Adrian Beltre followed in back-to-back fashion with his sixth homer of the season.

"It was the first time I've ever seen anything like that," Arrieta said of Hamilton. "Very special hitter. You know, he's the kind of guy who really likes to jump on the first pitch, and we know that as a staff. He didn't miss tonight. You've got to tip your cap to him, but we've got to do a better job -- me especially -- making better pitches early in the count to him."

Hamilton faced Arrieta one more time in the fifth. Again he hit the ball hard, but this one was merely a double into the right-center-field gap. But when it first came off the bat, there was the thought ...

"When I first hit it, yeah," Hamilton said. "But then I saw it had top spin, so I ran hard."

When Hamilton came up in the seventh with two outs and Andrus on first base, Orioles manager Buck Showalter brought in left-hander Zach Phillips to face him. It didn't help. Hamilton hit the second pitch from Phillips over the center-field wall for a home run.

"He's been doing that to a lot of teams in baseball, but not to that extent," Showalter said.

That tied the Rangers club record for home runs in a game and set the stage for history in the eighth. This time Hamilton was going up against Darren O'Day, the former Rangers reliever who relies mainly on a sinker and keeping the ball down in the zone.

Hamilton said he wasn't thinking about the fourth home run.

"No ... I prepared like any other at-bat," Hamilton said. "O'Day ... I've spent time behind him and I've seen him throw. I checked the scouting reports. I went up there like any other at-bat. If I don't hit another it's still a great night."

On first base, Andrus watched and waited.

"I was like, 'Let's see what pitch he hits out now,'" Andrus said.

O'Day got Hamilton to miss a high fastball and foul off a slider. Then he threw the sinker, and Hamilton hit it to deep center and just over the wall.

"Adrian Beltre and I were standing in the on-deck circle and we started going nuts," Young said. "I'm not sure we'll ever see anything like that again."

"I was running around the bases and looking at people's faces," Andrus said. "[Orioles shortstop] J.J. Hardy 's face, it was like, unbelievable."

Neftali Feliz benefited from Hamilton's hefty support and turned in a fine start to hold the Orioles' lineup down. He allowed one run on four hits and struck out a career-high eight, en route to his first victory since his season debut. Reliever Robbie Ross allowed consecutive homers to Hardy and Nick Markakis in the eighth.

The last player to hit four home runs in a game was Carlos Delgado on Sept. 25, 2003, for the Blue Jays against Tampa Bay.

"Guy's already got three bombs and I had him 0-2 and I throw it right over the middle," O'Day said. "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."

Who can? Even Hamilton, who was going to celebrate with a pizza and friends afterwards, had trouble summing it up.

"When you do something incredible it takes time to sink in," Hamilton said. "When I get away from it and have time to think about, it will sink in. But all I can think about now is, what a blessing. To be in this kind of company is awesome."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.