BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles spent the first two games of their four-game series with the Texas Rangers serving up eight home runs to the most dangerous hitting lineup in the American League.
After Wednesday’s game at Camden Yards was rained out — forcing a doubleheader Thursday — the Baltimore bats were ready to partake in a slugfest early, while making history in the process.
In Thursday’s first game, the Orioles hit home runs in their first three at-bats of the game — getting back-to-back-to-back solo shots from Ryan Flaherty, J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis in the first inning — part of a five-homer game for Baltimore in its 6-5 win.
Another home run by Josh Hamilton, who hit four on Tuesday, helped Texas post a 7-3 victory in the nightcap. Despite dropping three of four to Texas here, the Orioles (20-12) still ended the night tied for first in the AL East with the Rays, who arrive in Baltimore for a three-game series this weekend.
The early barrage in the opener marked the first time in American League history that a team opened with three consecutive homers and the fourth time overall, the last time coming when the Brewers did it on Sept. 9, 2007. Ironically, Hardy hit the middle home run on that day as well. The 2003 Braves and 1987 Padres also opened games with three consecutive homers.
“Nothing surprises me when you’re dealing with this level of skill,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “These are the best players in the world, but they’re also human beings who are susceptible to things and capable of doing great things. It’s always an honor to sit there and watch them. There’s not a day that goes by that something doesn’t happen.”
Adam Jones also hit his team-high ninth homer in the seventh, followed by Wilson Betemit’s two-run shot later that inning, capping the Orioles’ first five-homer game since June 30, 2010 against Oakland.
Baltimore would need every run, as the Rangers received a three-run, pinch-hit homer from David Murphy in the ninth inning off of closer Jim Johnson, who struggled to his ninth save.
Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen gave the Orioles the best start of his brief major league career, shutting down a Texas offense that scored 24 combined runs in the first two games of the series.
Chen, the 26-year-old Taiwan native signed this offseason after four seasons pitching in Japan, held the Rangers to two runs on six hits over a career-high 72 / 3 innings, the Orioles’ best start in six games. It was his third quality start in his last four outings.
After allowing the trio of homers in the first, Texas starter Colby Lewis went on to retire 18 straight Baltimore batters — 11 of them via a strikeout — before Jones led off the seventh with a mammoth shot to left.
In the second game, the Rangers took the lead for good on a two-out RBI single by Elvis Andrus in the fifth inning, overcoming Baltimore’s three-run second inning that resulted from three Texas errors.