May 5, 2013

Rangers’ Beltre spoils Red Sox plan with walk-off hit

Texas sweeps Boston with a 4-3 win on Beltre’s tiebreaker in ninth.

Adrian Beltre got a second chance and didn’t let it slip away.

The Boston Red Sox twice issued an intentional walk to Lance Berkman to get to Beltre late in a tie game. It worked the first time when Beltre grounded out to end the seventh inning.

But Beltre made them pay in the ninth inning. He lined a single into right-center field that scored Elvis Andrus from second, and capped a 4-3 walk-off victory for the Rangers on Sunday afternoon at a sold-out Rangers Ballpark.

The Rangers swept the three-game series against the Red Sox, and the two are tied for the best record in the American League at 20-11.

“It means a lot,” Andrus said. “That’s a great team to play, so it’s always great when you get a sweep against those guys. That was our first walk-off this year and hopefully it’s the first of many.”

There were several who helped the Rangers get there. Yu Darvish threw 127 pitches over seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits. Michael Kirkman, Jason Frasor and Joe Nathan all did their jobs in relief, and Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland homered.

But Beltre received the star treatment after delivering his 12th career walk-off hit and vindicating himself after a subpar seventh-inning at-bat.

With the game tied 3-3 in the seventh, the Red Sox walked Berkman to put runners at the corners with two outs. Beltre stepped in against Koji Uehara, who induced a groundout back to the mound.

“Not a good pitch to hit,” Beltre said. “I shouldn’t have swung at that pitch.”

Beltre found himself in a similar position two innings later, though.

The score remained 3-3 and the Rangers had started a two-out rally in the ninth against Red Sox right-hander Clayton Mortensen. Andrus singled to center and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. With first base open, the Red Sox walked Berkman again to get to Beltre for the righty-righty matchup.

Beltre explained his mindset going into that at-bat by saying, “You have a little more, ‘I have to do it now because I screwed up the first one.’ You always want to be the guy that helped your team win at the end. In those situations, you want to come through.”

Beltre did that the second time by lining a 1-2 slider into right-center that allowed Andrus to score easily. But Beltre got another chance because of some impressive bullpen work.

Kirkman retired the first two batters of the eighth but then issued consecutive walks. Frasor ended that threat by getting Red Sox slugger Mike Napoli to ground into a fielder’s choice.

In the ninth, Nathan ran into trouble by issuing a one-out walk to David Ross followed by a single to Stephen Drew. But he struck out pinch hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a backdoor curveball and got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out on a slider.

“This series, we played well and had a little bit of everything working for us,” Nathan said. “It should give us some confidence.”

The team always has confidence when Darvish is on the mound, but he got off to a shaky start. Darvish gave up a two-out, two-run homer to David Ortiz in the first inning, and then a solo shot to David Ross in the second.

Darvish settled into a zone after that, allowing only three base runners the rest of the way. He struck out 14, including Pedro Ciriaco to end the seventh. Darvish showed his emotion after the Ciriaco strikeout, which came on his 127th pitch.

“If I had given up a hit there, it would’ve changed the momentum of the game,” Darvish said.

The Rangers had taken the momentum an inning earlier. Cruz swatted a game-tying, two-run homer in the sixth, winning an eight-pitch at-bat against Red Sox starter Jon Lester. Moreland had taken Lester deep with a solo shot in the third inning.

It all paved the way for Beltre’s heroics and the Rangers’ three-game sweep of the AL East leader.

“We in Texas can play baseball,” manager Ron Washington said. “We’re not going to get overwhelmed because there’s a lot of baseball to be played. But we can play baseball on any given night when we’re playing our best game with anybody.”

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