By DAVID GINSBURG, Associated Press
BALTIMORE (AP) — Moments before he made history with his final swing in an incredible four-homer performance, Josh Hamilton stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with a surprising sense of calm.
The Texas Rangers slugger had never before hit more than two home runs in a game, and he already had three. So as he took his place in the batter's box against Baltimore right-hander Darren O'Day, Hamilton already had a feeling of accomplishment.
"I just went up like it was any other at-bat because if I don't hit one," Hamilton reasoned, "I've still had a really good night."
It turned out to be unforgettable.
Hamilton became the 16th player to hit four home runs in a game, launching a quartet of two-run drives against three different pitchers to carry the Rangers to a 10-3 victory Tuesday.
Hamilton homered off Jake Arrieta in the first and third innings, added another off Zach Phillips in the seventh and topped it off with a one-for-the-books shot against O'Day. During the last at-bat, Hamilton took a mighty hack and missed, lined a foul into right-field seats and then sent an 0-2 pitch over the center-field wall.
"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.
"It reminds you of when you're in Little League and a little kid, and just the excitement and why we play the game. Things like that. You never know what can happen. It was just an absolute blessing."
Hamilton also doubled in the fifth inning. His 18 total bases is a new single-game American League record, and his eight RBIs are a career high.
"Amazing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Josh came out tonight, and he wasn't going to be denied."
The last player to hit four home runs in a game was Carlos Delgado on Sept. 25, 2003, for Toronto against Tampa Bay. Two of the 16 players to hit four homers in a game did it before 1900.
"History was witnessed tonight," Washington said.
"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. "I think when I get away from everybody and I have some time to myself, I think it might then."
Hamilton is the sixth AL player to perform the feat. The last to hit four homers in a game against the Orioles was Rocky Colavito in 1959, at old Memorial Stadium.
"He's the best athlete in baseball," teammate Nelson Cruz said of Hamilton. "If anybody can do it, he can do it."
Elvis Andrus got on base ahead of Hamilton in each instance, said, "He kept hitting bombs and bombs. It feels really good because I don't have to run that hard to score."
Hamilton, who is in the final year of his contract and could become a free agent after this season, leads the AL with 14 homers and 36 RBIs, and his 5-for-5 effort raised his batting average to .406.
He also set the Texas single-game club record with five extra-base hits, breaking the mark of four held by eight players. Hamilton has homered in five of his last six at-bats, counting his final trip to the plate Monday night.
Hamilton's record-setting night is the latest accomplishment in a career that almost never was.
He went from first round draft pick in 1999 by Tampa Bay to out of baseball all together because of drug and alcohol addiction.
He recovered and returned to the majors in 2007 with Cincinnati, and was traded to the Texas, where he has become a star — the AL MVP in 2010 — while still battling his addiction. He had a relapse before this season, but is off to a torrid start.
"Understanding that what I'm doing and what God's allowed me to do coming back from everything I went through and allowing me to play the game at the level I play it, it's pretty amazing to think about," Hamilton said.
Adrian Beltre also homered for the Rangers. Coming off a 14-3 win in the series opener, Texas has won two straight for the first time since April 24-25 and are 20-10, their best-ever record after 30 games.