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Rangers 12, Orioles 3: Tommy Hunter + Texas = KABOOM

Adrian Beltre rounds the bases after hitting a homer in the fourth inning. No, not that one. His OTHER homerun in the fourth inning.
Adrian Beltre rounds the bases after hitting a homer in the fourth inning. No, not that one. His OTHER homerun in the fourth inning.

Tonight's top story: After watching Tommy Hunter pitch, Orioles issue immediate recall of playoff tickets.

The O's buried themselves further in the run-differential quicksand with a gruesome blowout loss to Texas, leaving a bitter aftertaste to an otherwise decent 3-3 road trip. This debacle of a game could be summed up by the fact that Adrian Beltre blasted three homeruns-- by the fourth inning.

It's safe to say that Tommy Hunter is not exactly beloved by Orioles fans, especially here at Camden Chat. The esteemed Eat More Esskay nicknamed him "Five Runs All Earned" for his propensity to...well, you know. Sometimes I feel bad for Tommy. Sure, he gives up homeruns like they're going out of style, but at least he tends to eat up innings, he's an intense competitor, he's a real bulldog on the mound, he...

...ah, forget it. All the cliches in the world aren't going to save Hunter from the fan's ire after tonight's unsightly disaster. Five Runs All Earned would've been a sparkling pitching line compared to what Hunter actually delivered tonight. And at the worst possible time, too. This was the day the Orioles dared to dream big, announcing that playoff tickets were going on sale for the first time in 15 years. This was a day that every one of the Orioles' wild-card competitors notched a win, amping up the pressure for the Birds to keep pace. Instead, Hunter took the familiar mound in Arlington and just got torn to shreds by his former teammates.

Tommy managed to hang in there for the first three innings, giving up just an Adrian Beltre solo homer in the second. But in the fourth, the Orioles' chances of winning this series evaporated as every hanging Hunter meatball was socked into oblivion.

The trouble began once again with Beltre, who smashed a two-run blast into the left-field seats, his second homer of the game. There's plenty more where that came from, both from Beltre and from his hard-hitting Rangers teammates. The next six batters went like this:

Gotta love the coaching visit to the mound in the midst of all that chaos. Whatever Rick Adair told Hunter, he certainly did a bang-up job.

And so Hunter trudged off the mound after his ugliest outing of the season and one of the worst by an O's starter this year. He went three innings (plus eight batters in the fourth, none of whom he retired). Eight runs. Eight hits. And three more homers, giving Hunter a whopping 32 gopherballs allowed this season. Thirty-two?? That doesn't even seem mathematically possible for a guy who's spent part of the season in the minors and/or middle relief.

Once Kevin Gregg got involved, things got even worse (as they usually do with Kevin Gregg). He managed to get three outs, but not before he gave up another two-run homer to Beltre. That's right-- Beltre hit TWO two-run homers in one inning, giving him three blasts for the night. And with two at-bats still awaiting him, he had an excellent chance of pulling a Josh Hamilton and bashing four big flies in a single game. Alas-- Beltre grounded out in each of his final two at-bats, so we were denied a potentially historic feat. Beltre's at-bats were the only thing worth watching amidst this exhibition of dreck.

The always unimpressive J.C. Romero allowed another run in the fifth, and the Rangers made it an even dozen with a run off Steve Johnson in the seventh. Hopefully Johnson will still be able to make his scheduled start on Saturday, since he only worked one inning tonight. I'd hate to see Steve again get screwed out of an opportunity to start because he has to keep cleaning up other pitchers' messes. He's certainly earned a spot in the rotation, much more so than, oh I don't know, TOMMY HUNTER. Just to pick a random name.

The O's offense didn't do much of anything, not that it would've mattered. Rangers starter Derek Holland held them to three runs in seven innings, and all three were driven in by leadoff man Nick Markakis, who also had three hits. Nick's been kinda awesome, huh? In contrast, the rest of the O's lineup was a combined 3-for-28 tonight.

This game was a lost cause. You can't win ‘em all, of course...but with five or six other teams in the mix, every loss can potentially be costly. The Orioles now get a day off to clear their heads and will start a three-game series back in Baltimore against the Blue Jays on Friday.