Tommy Hunter has rarely been worse than he was Wednesday in Texas. The husky right hander gave up 8 earned runs on 8 hits through 3 innings. He is Tommy Hunter, so you KNEW the long ball would play a role, but in this one, Hunter chucked three gopher balls. And, as often seems the case with Hunter, it all fell apart in an instant, as the Orioles dropped the rubber match of their three-game Lone-Star swing, 12-3.
Hunter (L, 4-8) cruised early (“early” in a three-inning start means “in the first inning.” All things are relative). But leading off the second, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre started what would be a career night. On a 3-2 pitch, Hunter threw a 94 MPH cut fastball that didn’t cut much, and Beltre smoked a line drive over the center field fence for a home run (20), and a 1-0 Rangers lead.
After the Orioles tied it at 1 on a Nick Markakis single in the third, Hunter again retired the side in the home half of inning number three. But in the fourth, Hunter’s former teammates took batting practice against him.
Josh Hamilton singled to start the nightmare, and set the stage for Beltre. Hunter served up a 1-0, nothing slider. It was belt-high, and Beltre just clobbered it, deep into the seats in left for his second homer of the night, 21st of the year, and a 3-1 Texas lead. And the Rangers were just getting started.
Nelson Cruz singled. Michael Young singled. David Murphy doubled Cruz home, and it was 4-1. Geovany Soto walked on four pitches, and with two in and no outs, the bases were loaded for Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland.
Hunter, on 0-1, broke off another slider. Again, it stayed belt-high. Again, it landed in the seats. Moreland’s 13th home run was also his first career grand slam, and it turned this one into a laugher, at 8-1. Hunter faced one more batter, in second baseman Ian Kinsler. He singled to left, and Buck Showalter, finally showing Hunter a little mercy, yanked him. On came Kevin Gregg, and in one pitch, he did what Tommy Hunter couldn’t get done in 22 pitches in the fourth—get an out. Actually, Gregg got two, as Elvis Andrus hit into the 1-6-3 double play.
But with two outs, Gregg walked Hamilton, bring up Beltre. Gregg got ahead of Beltre 0-2, and decided to try to get him to climb the ladder. He threw a 91 MPH fastball eye-high, and Beltre blasted it deep into center, and just over the wall for a third home run on the night, and second in the inning.
Beltre would get two more cracks at joining teammate Hamilton as Rangers with four home runs in one game against the Orioles this season, but he grounded to third in the sixth, and hit into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play in the eighth.
The Rangers got a solid outing from lefty Derrick Holland (W, 8-6), who picked up his first win all month. Holland allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits through 7. He struck out 5, and walked 2.
The birds get a day off to let this one sink in Thursday. They welcome the Toronto Blue Jays to town for a weekend set starting Friday night at 7:05. It’ll be Zach Britton (2-1, 6.23) vs. Carlos Villanueva (6-3, 3.10).
- The O’s didn’t allow a fourth home run to Beltre. It’ll be hard enough watching to SportsCenter after he hit three. I think they just stopped talking about Hamilton’s 4-home run game in May, on Monday.
- Markakis: 3-4, 3RBI.
- Tommy Hunter’s real estate agent needs to teach him about location, location, location. Everything at the belt was hit hard in this one. When that happens, Hunter’s outfielders run OUT of real estate. Hunter has now allowed 31 home runs, tops in baseball.
- Steve Johnson, surprisingly, wasn’t used in long relief. Instead, he joined ‘pen mates Gregg, J.C. Romero, Luis Ayala, and Matt Lindstrom in tossing an inning each. Of that crew, only Ayala and Lindstrom were unscored upon.
- A win by the A’s Wednesday knocks the O’s out of the top spot for the second Wild Card position, by 1/2 game. The birds also had a chance to gain on the Yankees again, who were beaten by the White Sox, and in fact, swept by Chicago.