Josh Hamilton leaves Rangers in awe
Slugger has impressed teammates before, but 4-HR night has them blown away
BALTIMORE -- Texas Rangers reliever Mike Adams knew he was witnessing history. As soon as Josh Hamilton's fourth home run bounded into the Baltimore Orioles' bullpen at Camden Yards, Adams asked for the baseball. He put it in a safe place in his backpack and couldn't wait to hand it to Hamilton.
Who knows? Maybe it will be headed to the Hall of Fame soon.
"I knew he'd want that, and I wasn't going to get out of there without it," said Adams, who also secured Hamilton's third home run ball for safekeeping. "That's not something that happens every day. To be a witness to that and touch the baseball was pretty neat. We're all in awe."
Adams wasn't the only Rangers player amazed after Tuesday's ridiculous performance. After all, the closest thing to Roy Hobbs in the big leagues just matched the fictional character's four-homer performance that's part of movie lore.
Heck, Hamilton's display was more majestic. The only thing lacking was its own soundtrack.
Pitchers have perfect games and no-hitters. What does a hitter have? Perhaps Tuesday is as close to a perfect game an offensive player can have in the big leagues. After his fourth homer, the 11,000 or so still in attendance at Camden Yards gave Hamilton a standing ovation. Many headed to the exits after that, clearly having waited around for Hamilton's fifth at-bat to see if he would hit another homer. He made it worth the wait for them, even in a 10-3 Baltimore loss.
Hamilton was thankful he got the opportunity to have a night like that. But to be honest, his teammates seemed more in awe by it than he did.
That's not something that happens every day. To be a witness to that and touch the baseball was pretty neat. We're all in awe.” -- Rangers relief pitcher Mike Adams on Josh Hamilton's four home runs
To a man, they put it at the top of Hamilton's impressive résumé. Don't forget, Hamilton stole the show at Yankee Stadium in 2008 in the Home Run Derby. It was his breakout national performance and it left the baseball universe stunned. He was the ALCS MVP in 2010, mashing home runs, collecting clutch hits and forcing Yankees manager Joe Girardi to intentionally walk him five times in the series (three times in the clinching game). Hamilton won the AL MVP in 2010 despite missing the last month of the season.
He has done a lot of amazing things -- but nothing like four homers in a game. And his teammates got to see it from variety of angles.
Adams and the rest of his bullpen crew saw the third and fourth homers come right near them. They jumped up and down and went crazy when the fourth one landed.
"The guy is a freak," said starter Derek Holland, who was still shaking his head. "He's unbelievable. It couldn't happen to a better guy. It's amazing to sit there and watch. I couldn't believe it."
The Rangers dugout exploded, to use Michael Young's term, when Hamilton made his final swing of the night to become the 16th player in big league history to hit four homers in a game. Young and Adrian Beltre were near the on-deck circle and looked at each other and said the same thing: "Holy s---."
Meanwhile, Elvis Andrus had the enviable job of trotting around the bases ahead of Hamilton for every single homer. In fact, Hamilton now has five two-run homers in his last six at-bats -- the first to do that since Shawn Green of the Dodgers on May 23-24, 2002 -- and Andrus has been on base for all of them.
"I'm his lucky charm," Andrus said. "The time I didn't get on base, he doubled. Every time I was on base, he hit it out of the park. It was fun. It was unbelievable. I thought after the first swing that he was going to hit it out that last time. I thought, 'Don't throw it around the plate.' He did, and he hit it out."
Beltre, however, claims he's the lucky charm. He's the only player in the Rangers' clubhouse who can say he was teammates with two of the past three players to have four-homer games. Beltre was there when Green belted his four homers in 2002. He even hit a homer of his own in that game, just like he did Tuesday. No one wanted to ask him about his homer then, either.
"I had a homer and a single and I don't feel like I did anything," said Beltre, who has a huge homer feat on his own résumé -- three homers in Game 4 of the 2011 ALDS. "That's fine. I would like to feel like that every day if he'll do that every day."
Beltre knows what would have happened had Hamilton been able to bat for a sixth time.
"I have no doubt he probably would have hit another home run," Beltre said.
Several players had trouble trying to put the feat in perspective.
"I don't know what to think," Mike Napoli said. "It's God-given talent. It's unbelievable. I don't know what to say."
Young said it was the best individual performance by a hitter that he's ever seen in person.
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"You could tell from his first at-bat he was locked," Young said. "He gets a first-pitch curveball from a guy that he hasn't seen all season. He hits it out. That's when you know he's seeing it well.
"Of course I'm surprised by it. You don't expect someone to hit four homers. If someone is capable, it's Josh and maybe a handful of other guys. You don't expect that in the big leagues. That's fantastic."
The Rangers' coaching staff, a group full of wily veterans, smiled at the fact that baseball has a way of showing you something new, even if you've seen decades of games.
"I've never witnessed anything like that," said 73-year-old bench coach Jackie Moore, who is in his 55th season as a player, coach or manager. "To have an individual do that is amazing. You sit there and you're in awe."
After the game, manager Ron Washington was busy reviewing the plate appearances in his mind, smiling as he thought about it. He was clearly happy for Hamilton.
"I've never seen that," Washington said. "Only on TV have I seen that. I never witnessed where it was barreled up the way he barreled it up tonight.
"He deals with demons that we don't know nothing about, and sometimes they surface and you've got to fight them, too. But tonight he was clear. He was clear on his thought process and seeing the ball and getting that bat head through the zone. It was amazing."
David Murphy was thankful to be a part of it.
"It's the coolest thing I've ever seen on a baseball field by an individual," Murphy said. "Being on the opposing side last year, it's impressive to see Albert Pujols hit three home runs in a World Series or Adrian Beltre hitting three in a playoff game. But four is just so rare. I feel like an 8-year-old kid right now who just left the ballgame and saw the coolest thing ever."
I think everyone feels that way, David.