For the second consecutive year, the Texas Rangers are heading to the ALCS, thanks in large part to the bat of third baseman Adrian Beltre. Beltre became the seventh player in history to hit three home runs in a playoff game, joining the likes of Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, as the Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 on Tuesday. It marks the first time a player has accomplished the feat in a division series.
Beltre’s first home run, which gave Texas a quick 2-0 lead, was a solo shot off Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson in the second inning. It appeared as though Hellickson was suffering from a case of déjà vu in the fourth inning, as Beltre added another solo shot, giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead. The final dinger was again a solo shot in the seventh inning against rookie Matt Moore, who –besides the one mistake – was stellar in just his third major league appearance.
Coming into Tuesday’s game at Tropicana Field, Beltre had just one hit in 11 playoff at bats this postseason, however he was practically all of Texas’ offense in game four.
The Rangers were able to hang on to their lead thanks to a bullpen that was lights out, well that is until the ninth inning. The Rays just haven’t gone away quietly all season, as they proved last week when they completed an improbable 7-0 comeback win against the New York Yankees to earn the Wild Card spot on the last night of the season. Tonight would be no different.
The Rangers bullpen had allowed just one hit in three innings of work, after the Rangers pulled starter Matt Harrison, who looked shaky in his second appearance of the series giving up two runs in just five innings. Closer Neftali Feliz managed to give up a run on a Casey Kotchman single to right with one out, to cut the Rangers’ lead to one. However, Feliz was able to get out of trouble and earn his third save of the series as he left the tying run on base.
Texas had never won a playoff series coming into last postseason but the team is now heading back to the ALCS, where they await either the Yankees or the Detroit Tigers.
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.