Rangers-Orioles Preview

The Texas Rangers’ potent offense hadn’t been terribly

productive on the first two stops of the team’s 10-game road

trip.

All it took was a couple of games against their favorite

pitching staff to inject some life into their bats – especially

Josh Hamilton’s.

The weather did more to stop Hamilton and the Rangers than the

Baltimore Orioles, so now they get two chances Thursday to knock

around Baltimore pitching after a rainout Wednesday forced a

doubleheader.

Although they lost four of the first six on their trip to

Toronto and Cleveland due in large part to a 4.67 ERA, the Rangers

(20-10) didn’t do a whole lot offensively either. They averaged 4.3

runs, batted .254 and hit four homers.

A couple of matchups with the Orioles (19-11) have made those

numbers a very distant memory.

Hamilton homered in his final at-bat of Monday’s 14-3 victory

and went deep in his first two plate appearances Tuesday. He

settled for a double in the fifth inning before homering in the

seventh and eighth to become the 16th player in major league

history with four homers – the first since Carlos Delgado on Sept.

25, 2003, for Toronto.

“Obviously it’s, other than being in the World Series, the

highlight of my big-league career,” Hamilton said. “I was saying

after I hit two I’ve never hit three in a game before, and what a

blessing that was. Then to hit four is just an awesome feeling, to

see how excited my teammates got.”

Hamilton had a career-high eight RBIs and an AL-record 18 total

bases in the 10-3 win.

“Amazing,” manager Ron Washington said. “Josh came out tonight,

and he wasn’t going to be denied.”

The Rangers slugger is batting .406 overall this season, and

.447 (21 for 47) with seven homers and 21 RBIs in his last 11 games

against Baltimore.

“The expectations and everything, you can’t do much better than

that,” Hamilton said Wednesday. “Honestly, I hadn’t been nervous

for a game in a long time but I was a little nervous (Wednesday).

So maybe (the rainout) was a blessing in disguise.”

He’s not the only one putting up big numbers against Baltimore.

Texas has outscored the Orioles 70-18 during seven consecutive wins

in the series and is batting .378 with 16 home runs in those

games.

The Rangers haven’t needed all this offense because starters

Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz have compiled a 2.77 ERA in the

first half of this four-game set.

That’s a trend Colby Lewis (3-1, 2.97 ERA) hopes to continue in

the first game Thursday as he tries to rebound from his first loss.

The right-hander had his first poor start Friday at Cleveland,

yielding six runs and 10 hits – two homers – over 6 2-3 innings in

a 6-3 defeat. He surrendered more than one home run for the first

time in 12 starts and had his personal six-game win streak

snapped.

Lewis has made three starts against the Orioles since the start

of 2010, going 1-2 with a 5.03 ERA. Mark Reynolds is 3 for 6 with a

pair of homers off Lewis.

The Orioles have dropped two in a row after winning five

straight but remain among the best teams in baseball.

Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy hit his third homer in as many games

Tuesday and is 10 for 16 during that span.

Wei-Yin Chen (2-0, 2.76) takes the mound opposite Lewis

following the worst of his five major league starts. After giving

up four runs over 18 2-3 innings in his previous three outings, the

rookie left-hander allowed four – three earned – and five hits with

three walks in five innings at Boston on Friday.

Chen, who didn’t receive a decision, threw 100 pitches and

wasn’t helped by a defense that committed three errors.

Tommy Hunter (2-1, 5.00) is scheduled to be recalled from

Triple-A Norfolk and pitch the second game, which will be his first

start against the Rangers since they traded him to Baltimore on

July 30.

The right-hander was sent to the minors after he struggled in a

9-6, 17-inning win at Boston on Sunday. He was pulled with one out

in the fifth after surrendering five runs and eight hits.

The Rangers will counter with left-hander Derek Holland (2-2,

4.43), who is 0-2 with a 5.75 ERA in his last three starts.

However, he turned in a strong performance Saturday, allowing one

earned run in 7 1-3 innings of a 5-2 win in 11 at Cleveland.

Holland was impressive in his latest visit to Camden Yards on

April 10, 2011, allowing five hits with six strikeouts in six

innings of a 3-0 victory.