Rangers taking advantage when Adrian Beltre walks

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The race to be the American League MVP this season is down to Secretariat and the rest of the Belmont Stakes field.

Miguel Cabrera is pulling away like a tremendous hitting machine, leaving in his dust a talented field of also-rans with diminishing hopes of taking home the league’s top individual award.

“What Cabrera is doing is just simply amazing,” said one of the chasers, Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Some of Beltre’s numbers don’t sparkle like those of Mike Trout and Chris Davis, but he is clearly the MVP on a team with a 93.2 percent chance of making the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus.

This month, however, Beltre is being pitched to more cautiously than Cabrera, entering Tuesday having drawn three more walks (17 to 14) and two more intentional passes (6 to 4).

That might say as much about the batters behind the red-hot Beltre, A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rios, who don’t pose the same threat of the batters behind Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez.

But Pierzynski has been producing behind Beltre and is likely to get more chances as Rangers opponents latch onto the trend of walking Beltre and daring someone else to beat them.

The Seattle Mariners tried it twice Monday night, and both times another Rangers hitter got the job done. Pierzynski had the big blast, a three-run homer in the seventh inning of an 8-3 win, and he was back in the No. 5 spot Tuesday behind Beltre in a late game at Safeco Field.

“Every team is going to do it,” Pierzynski said late Monday after the victory. “It makes perfect sense. I’d do it if I was them, too.”

Pierzynski batted behind Barry Bonds in 20 games in 2004, the season Bonds drew a single-season record 232 walks and 120 intentional passes. Pierzynski was only 1 for 12 after Bonds was given an intentional walk.

Beltre, with 10 intentional walks this season, is nowhere near Bonds. Pierzynski has been the No. 5 hitter after seven of them and is 3 for 7 with six RBIs.

“You just don’t want to change anything,” Pierzynski said. “It’s easier said than done because you take pride in what you do. But I understand it’s part of the game. I hit behind Barry Bonds.”

The Rangers are 3 for 9 and have scored nine runs during the next plate appearance after Beltre has been put on. The run total jumps to 11 when counting Rios’ two-run single in the first inning Monday after Pierzynski bounced into a fielder’s choice after the initial walk to Beltre.

That was the third instance of Beltre being walked in the first inning during a scoreless game. The Rangers have been leading by one run for three of the walks, trailing by a run twice and up at least four runs two times.

Teams have elected to walk Beltre intentionally five times with one out, once getting an unconventional inning-ending double play in which a run scored. Of the five walks with two outs, the inning has ended with the next batter only twice.

Perhaps the biggest number is the Rangers’ record in the eight games in which Beltre has been walked intentionally — 7-1.

“I’m not mad that they’re walking me,” Beltre said. “To be honest, I want to be pitched to because I want to be in that situation. I love that situation, but as long as we score some runs, I don’t care how we get them.”

Manager Ron Washington isn’t planning to alter his batting order or ask the players hitting in front of Beltre to change their style of play.

So, second baseman Ian Kinsler will still have free reign to bunt with runners on base even if the sacrifice leaves first base open, and he can still try to stretch a single into a double even if that creates an opportunity for an opponent to walk Beltre.

Kinsler did both of those things Monday, leading to both Beltre intentional walks, and the Rangers scored five times. Kinsler also put down a bunt in the third inning Aug. 19, again leading to a Beltre walk, and the Rangers scored 11 runs.

“I’m not going to take his game away from him,” Washington said.

Rangers opponents are trying to take the bat away from Beltre. The trend is going to continue as long as he stays hot, and he entered Tuesday hitting .419 in his previous 26 games.

So far this season, and especially this month, the intentional walk of Beltre has played into the Rangers’ favor.

“It’s baseball,” Beltre said. “We’re trying to win ballgames. It doesn’t matter how we do it.”

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson

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