A prevailing thought the past two months was that Father Time, still undefeated, had caught up to Adrian Beltre.
The Texas Rangers’ best player needed two months to recover from a strained right calf, and it took only seven games until he was injured again. The disabled list seemed all but a certainty as recently as Friday.
Yet, there Beltre was Saturday at Nationals Park, batting fourth and playing third base on a sprained left ankle.
“Because I’m a quick healer,” he said. “Besides the calf.”
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Too bad he wasn’t the replay umpire. The Rangers would have won the game two innings sooner.
The Rangers’ potential go-ahead run was wiped out by an overturned call at home in the ninth inning, but Robinson Chirinos launched a three-run homer with two outs in the 11th as the Rangers rallied past the Washington Nationals 6-3.
It was an amazing win for us. It says a lot about the guys to not give up and play until the last out.
Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos
“It was an amazing win for us,” Chirinos said. “It says a lot about the guys to not give up and play until the last out.”
The Rangers improved to 3-5 with Beltre in the lineup this season, and he had a hand in the second straight victory over the second-best team in the National League.
But the Rangers (29-32) were down two runs heading into the ninth. Adam Lind launched a two-run homer in the Nationals’ three-run sixth inning against Martin Perez and Tony Barnette for a 3-1 lead, and the Rangers’ offense was held to only three hits against left-hander Gio Gonzalez over six innings before rallying.
Shin-Soo Choo opened the ninth with homer off closer Koda Glover. Elvis Andrus followed with a single, Beltre walked, and Nomar Mazara just missed a three-run homer with an RBI double off the right-field wall.
“I hit it off the end of the bat,” Mazara said. “When I hit it, I thought it was going to be a deep fly ball.”
That left the Rangers with runners at second and third for Chirinos, who lifted a fly ball to medium right field toward the line. Bryce Harper came up throwing, but Pete Kozma, running for Beltre, was ruled safe ahead of the tag.
The Nationals challenged, and the call was overturned. Rougned Odor struck out to end the rally, but the Rangers weren’t deflated.
“The ninth inning was crazy,” Chirinos said. “It was like, ‘Wow, I guess we lost that opportunity.’ ”
Fine relief work by Alex Claudio and Keone Kela kept the score tied into the 11th, when Joey Gallo doubled with two outs. The Nationals (38-23) elected to walk Mazara to get to Chirinos, whose drive on a 2-2 pitch hit off the top of the left-field wall and bounded into the seats.
Chirinos also hit a game-tying two-run homer Wednesday in the eighth inning of a 4-3 loss to the New York Mets.
“Thank God I’ve been able to produce for my team,” Chirinos said. “When I hit the home run, I was like, ‘I have another opportunity for my team.’ ”
The Rangers didn’t post their starting lineup until approximately 90 minutes before first pitch as they waited to make sure Beltre was a go. They had reached the decision that he wouldn’t go on the disabled list Friday, when he lobbied to play after his ankle felt good enough during batting practice.
Injured in the first inning Tuesday, Beltre wore a walking boot until Friday.
I’m moving around better, and I’m confident I don’t need the DL. Sometimes injuries just seem worse at the beginning.
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre
“I expected it to be better, but not this soon,” Beltre said. “It’s been a lot better. The pain is less. The inflammation went down quick. I’m moving around better, and I’m confident I don’t need the DL. Sometimes injuries just seem worse at the beginning.”
Beltre couldn’t range to his left to get a Michael Taylor grounder in the second, but he made a nice stop on a Ryan Rayburn grounder in the third and turned a nifty 5-3 double play to end the fourth.
Beltre extended his season-opening hitting streak to eight games with a single in the seventh for career hit No. 2,953. As if to prove those doubting his health wrong, he stole second base.
He also had a hand in the game-tying rally and watched from the bench as Chirinos homered and Kela worked a perfect 11th inning to seal the win.
“That’s a really good win,” manager Jeff Banister said. “These guys don’t give up. They stay in the fight.”