May 3, 2013

Adrian Beltre’s late struggles costly in Rangers’ loss

The Texas third baseman homers early but can’t deliver late in a 3-1 defeat.

If not for Adrian Beltre, the Texas Rangers would have been shut out Thursday night in the coldest May home game in club history.

But Beltre wasn’t taking any bows back in the warmth of the clubhouse. Instead, he was the poster boy for a misfiring offense as the Rangers lost a series for the first time this season.

The All-Star third baseman came up empty as the Rangers tried to mount a comeback in the sixth and eighth innings, and the rest of the offense fared only minimally better in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Starting pitcher Justin Grimm made only one mistake, which resulted in a three-run homer by Tyler Flowers in the sixth inning, but with the way Beltre and much of the Rangers’ lineup has been going the past week, there’s no margin for error.

“I am the kind of guy that I like to produce and I’m here to produce, and obviously it’s not happening,” Beltre said. “I’m not frustrated, but of course, I want to do better because the team is relying on me right now and I’m getting in a lot of situations where I should be producing and doing a lot better and am not doing that.”

Beltre finished the game with a .215 average after going 1 for 4 and stranding five runners. He is in a 2 for 20 skid and has only four hits in his last 34 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

But his first at-bat Thursday resulted in a home run to start the second inning. The Rangers, though, managed only one more hit against White Sox emergency starter Hector Santiago.

The second hit was a one-out double by Ian Kinsler in the sixth, and Elvis Andrus and Lance Berkman followed with walks to load the bases. Beltre, though, bounced into a double play to end the threat.

“It was a backdoor slider,” Beltre said. “Instead of breaking away, it broke in. I was hoping it was going to hang, but instead of hanging it just backed up on me and I was a little late and hit a ground ball.”

The Rangers had runners at first and second with two outs in the eighth, but Jesse Crain struck out Beltre. They also had runners at first and second with one out in the ninth, but Austin Reed struck out Mitch Moreland and Leonys Martin to end it.

“I can tell you this: What you see right now you won’t see at the end of the season,” manager Ron Washington said. “That’s a guarantee. But also you’ve got to give White Sox pitchers some credit. We were one swing away from making a difference, and each time they stopped it.”

Grimm, who was named the American League Rookie of the Month earlier in the day, did well to protect the 1-0 lead Beltre provided as he pitched out of trouble in the third when Chicago loaded the bases with one out.

Grimm, though, struck out Paul Konerko and Conor Gillaspie for two of his career-high-tying nine strikeouts and to start a stretch where he retired 10 straight batters.

Included in the string were the first two outs of the sixth before Gillaspie grounded a single through the middle. The next hitter, Alexei Ramirez, looped a single to left to bring up Flowers.

A.J. Pierzynski’s replacement dropped the first pitch, a hanging curveball, just inside the foul pole in left field for a 3-1 lead.

“Unfortunately sometimes that wins a ballgame,” Grimm said. “It was a hanging breaking ball, it stayed eye-level, and it would have been a ball if he hadn’t swung at it. But I had to pay for it.”

Beltre, though, was the one who was at the center of the postgame media attention. He kept the Rangers from getting shut out, but knows he missed a chance to possibly help them win.

“I feel better today even though I missed two at-bats in key situations where I didn’t come through,” he said. “But I saw the ball better today. I feel a little better, and hopefully tomorrow I’ll improve.”

Said Berkman: “It’s tough. He’s a guy that, obviously, is one of the greats. I don’t expect [Beltre struggling] is going to be the case for very much longer. He’s had some really good swings. He’ll get back on track here shortly.”

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