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Ian Kinsler walked to the plate in the sixth inning of the Texas Rangers' game against the Orioles on Wednesday night. His thoughts were simple.

"Get a triple," he said afterward, openly acknowledging how badly he wanted to hit for the cycle.

Kinsler drove a 3-2 pitch from Brian Bass to deepest right-center field at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He churned around the bases and dived headfirst into third, completing the cycle - single, double, triple and home run - for the first time in his career.

What were the odds?

Kinsler has speed, so you would think maybe not that long. Yet when he went to the plate, he had only seven triples in 1,663 plate appearances - giving him a 1-in-238 chance to get the job done.

Once upon a time, you would have told Kinsler to get real. But these days, it seems, it is practically raining cycles around the major leagues.

Jason Kubel had one Friday night, completing his with a go-ahead grand slam for the Minnesota Twins.

The Los Angeles Dodgers' Orlando Hudson had one Monday night (the first for the Dodgers since Wes Parker in 1970). He and Kinsler became only the fifth pair of big league batters to hit for the cycle in a three-day span - a feat that had happened only in 1912, 1920 and 1970 since 1900 before Stephen Drew and Adrian Beltre did it Sept. 1 last season. Now Kubel and Kinsler are the sixth such pair.

Not long ago, it was rarer for a player to hit for the cycle than to throw a no-hitter. This doesn't sound right, but the numbers back it up.

From 1900 until the strike in 1994, pitchers threw 192 no-hitters. Players hit for the cycle only 188 times.

While Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax combined for 12 no-hitters, no big leaguer has hit for the cycle more than three times. Bob Meusel and Babe Herman share that distinction, with John Reilly also doing it pre-1900.

Babe Ruth never hit for the cycle. Neither did Ty Cobb, Ernie Banks or Pete Rose. But suddenly cycles are becoming plentiful.

There have been 55 cycles since 1995, compared with only 23 no-hitters. There have been eight in the past year (including ones by Carlos Gomez, Mark Kotsay and Cristian Guzman) and six since August.

That's an incredible pace. If it's not just a fluke, it might have something to do with the deliberately quirky, hitter-friendly parks that have sprung up the past two decades, as well as more power-speed hitters like Kinsler.

In his fourth season, the Rangers second baseman is developing into one of the most exciting players in the majors. He hit .319 with a .517 slugging percentage and 26 stolen bases last season.

With Josh Hamilton hitting behind him, he scored 102 runs in only 121 games. That might have been only a warm-up for his exploits this season.

The cycle was part of a 6-for-6 game Wednesday. He entered Saturday hitting .476 with 11 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in 10 games.

Tough to dig out

This might really turn out to be a crazy season. Research by Gerry Fraley shows that slow starts carry a bigger impact than you might think in baseball's wild-card era.

Since 1995, when the wild card was added, 161 teams have had losing records through 10 games. Only 21 of those teams recovered to reach the playoffs. That's a 13 percent chance.

The Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers were among the teams starting this season 4-6 or worse. Imagine the angst this factoid could cause in Red Sox Nation.

Eye of the survivor

The good news for Joe Martinez is he can remember his second big league outing. The San Francisco Giants' rookie reliever is doing much better after taking a line-drive hit by Mike Cameron off the coconut.

Martinez spent four nights in a hospital after suffering a concussion, three hairline fractures and internal bleeding after the wicked blow to his forehead. He is expected to make a full recovery.

"I feel good," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think the doctors were kind of surprised I haven't had much of a headache at all. I'm not dizzy or woozy."

Martinez remembered the pitch to Cameron, the swing and falling to the ground, but not the ball hitting his head. He is supposed to rest for a full month and might not pitch again for two months.

Ultimate tribute

It was crazy watching games Wednesday, when every player was wearing No. 42 to honor Jackie Robinson. Every pitcher-hitter matchup was No. 42 to No. 42. Every ball that was put in play was fielded by No. 42. Every time a manager or pitching coach went to the mound, he was No. 42.

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was thrilled to be among the hundreds of 42s.

"Without Jackie Robinson I would not have played 10 years in the majors," Gaston said. "I wouldn't have coached, wouldn't have managed, I wouldn't be sitting here today, and the United States wouldn't have a black president."

Gaston received the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City, Mo., last winter.

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