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Rangers-Orioles Preview

AP - Sports

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.

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