A stunning homer start leads the Orioles past Texas in Game 1

After watching Josh Hamilton set an American League record with 18 total bases in one game on Tuesday night, the Orioles set an American League record in the first inning of Game 1 of the doubleheader today.

The Orioles became the first AL team to ever hit three straight homers to start a game in a 6-5 win over the Texas Rangers behind left-hander Wei-Yin Chen.

Ryan Flaherty led off the game against Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis and sent a 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall. J.J. Hardy followed with a booming 424-foot shot into the left-field stands for his eighth on the year, and then Nick Markakis hit his fifth out to right field.

It was a stunning start for the Orioles, who hit three homers on the first eight pitches they saw this afternoon.

It is the fourth time in major league history that a club led off a game with three straight homers. San Diego did it in 1987, Atlanta in 2003 and Milwaukee in 2007.

Meanwhile, Chen did a brilliant job against the hot-hitting Rangers, who had scored 14 and 10 runs in the first two games of this series. He pitched a career-high 7 2/3, allowing six hits and two runs with one walk and five strikeouts.

Chen is now 3-0 with an ERA of 2.68, and the Orioles are 5-1 in his six starts.

He did this against a Texas team that had scored 24 runs on 34 hits with a team average of .395 in the first two games of this series and a Texas team that had won seven in a row against the Orioles, scoring 70 runs in that time.

The Rangers pulled to within one run when David Murphy hit a pinch hit, three-run homer in the ninth off Jim Johnson. But Johnson got the next two outs, leaving Josh Hamilton in the on-deck circle as the game ended.

The last time the Orioles hit three straight homers in any inning was on July 20, 2010 when Luke Scott, Ty Wigginton and Adam Jones went back-to-back-to-back against Matt Garza. Jones nearly made it four in a row to start today when he hit a deep drive to center for the first out of the last of the first.

Hardy was also involved the last time a big league team began a game with three homers in a row. That was the Brewers on September 9, 2007 when Richie Weeks, Hardy and Ryan Braun pulled it off.

After the early homer outburst, Lewis went on to retire 18 straight batters, 11 on strikeouts, in an amazing turnaround. But that ended during Baltimore’s three-run seventh inning, which featured a solo homer by Jones and two-run shot by Wilson Betemit.

It’s the Orioles first five-homer game since June 30, 2010 against Oakland.

With the win, the Orioles improved to 20-11 with their 12th win in the last 16 games. They can now even this series at two wins each with a victory in Game 2 of this doubleheader.

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