Angels manager Mike Scioscia summed up on his feelings succinctly when his club announced the signing of outfielder Josh Hamilton to join a lineup that already includes Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo."We can't wait to get going," Scioscia said. In signing Hamilton, the Angels landed one of the best all-around players in the game, a perennial Most Valuable Player candidate blessed with a tremendous mixture of power and speed, a five-tool athlete who can race deep into the gaps to take away extra-base hits almost as easily as he can drive the ball in the same direction. The Angels are also getting a player who can be quite frustrating to a team during those times when his production doesn't match his ability, when he spends more time chasing pitches in the dirt than he does running the bases.
This is a guy who, during June and July of this past season, hit .202 with a .399 slugging percentage in 47 games. He had eight home runs and 27 RBIs in 173 at-bats over those two months but also struck out 56 times.When Hamilton is at his best, however, the results can be absolutely spectacular -- and that was the case on May 8, 2012. On that cool but humid Chesapeake night at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Hamilton turned in one of the greatest performances in the history of the game.
"I remember it was the greatest accomplishment I've ever seen on a baseball field with my own two eyes," Rangers outfielder David Murphy said seven months later."The best individual performance I have ever seen," former Rangers infielder Michael Young said. "I've never seen anything like it." Hamilton hit a record-tying four home runs and added a double to carry the Rangers to a 10-3 victory over the Orioles. Hamilton became just the 16th player in big league history to hit four home runs in a game, tying a Major League record. "I had never hit three before in a game," Hamilton said afterward. "To hit four is an awesome feeling." "An amazing night," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
All four of the home runs were two-run shots, with Elvis Andrus on base each time. Of the 16 players who have hit four home runs in a game, Hamilton was only the third to hit all four with at least one runner on base."That was a lot of fun for me," Andrus said. "I was his lucky charm." Hamilton, who had hit a home run in his final at-bat in the Rangers' previous game, just missed making Major League history. He came up in the fifth inning against Orioles starter Jake Arrieta and crushed a ball into the gap in right-center. He had already had hit two home runs on the night and thought this one had a chance to go as well. But he hit it with so much topspin that the ball didn't carry. Instead, Hamilton had to settle for a mere double. But Hamilton came back with his third home run of the night in the seventh inning, this one off of left-hander Zach Phillips. That gave the left-handed-hitting Hamilton one more chance, and he got it in the eighth against Orioles reliever Darren O'Day, a sidearming right-hander who relies mainly on a sinker and keeping the ball down in the zone. The score was 8-1 at the time, and O'Day, to his credit, wasn't afraid to go right after Hamilton -- he got ahead in the count, 0-2. On first base, Andrus watched and waited. "I was like, 'Let's see what pitch he hits out now,'" Andrus said. O'Day, after getting Hamilton to miss a high fastball and foul off a slider, threw a sinker and watched it disappear over the center-field wall. "Guy's already got three bombs and I had him 0-2, and I throw it right over the middle," O'Day said. "I couldn't have soft-tossed it any better to him. I'd like that pitch back, for sure. You can't say enough about the day he had." With 18 total bases, Hamilton established a new American League record for one game, he tied a Major League record for home runs in consecutive games and he was the fifth Rangers player to drive in at least eight runs a game. The list of trivia generated from his performance was substantial but hardly does justice to actually being there and witnessing that kind of performance. That was the kind of game Hamilton is capable of on any given night, and that's what the Angels are looking forward to as he brings his tremendous talent to Anaheim. "A fascinating player," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.