Sports

Texas Rangers' Beltre makes Tampa Bay pay

ARLINGTON -- Josh Hamilton is among the most dangerous players at the plate right now. He leads the American League in home runs, RBIs, total bases and slugging percentage.

So it makes sense that Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon opted to intentionally walk Hamilton in the seventh inning of a three-run game with two outs and first base open. But Adrian Beltre isn't too shabby at the plate himself.

And Beltre blew up the Rays' plan, sending a 361-foot opposite field homer to right. That proved to be the play that broke the game open, carrying the Rangers to a 7-2 victory Saturday at a sold-out Rangers Ballpark. It was the fifth consecutive sellout, a franchise record, and the crowd saw the Rangers match their best 21-game start at 16-5.

"I'm always going to be up to the challenge because I know not many pitchers are going to face Josh the way he is swinging the bat," Beltre said. "My job is to do a better job to make them think harder and maybe they'll pitch to him."

It's the second time in three games that Beltre made a team pay for giving a free pass to Hamilton. He had a run-scoring single in the sixth inning of the Rangers' 7-3 victory over the Yankees on Wednesday.

"It's definitely rough on opposing pitchers," Colby Lewis said. "I don't want to pitch against these guys anytime soon."

Lewis was the beneficiary of the Beltre blast. He turned in another impressive start, allowing one run on three hits with three walks and five strikeouts over six innings.

Lewis (3-0, 1.93 ERA) didn't have his best stuff, but mixed his pitches well. He worked around a walk and infield single in the first. In the second, Lewis gave up his only run on a solo home run by Matt Joyce.

"It was a pretty good pitch, but he had just seen two in a row," Lewis said. "And that's what professional hitters do."

Lewis didn't allow another leadoff man to reach until the sixth when Carlos Pena singled. But that was wiped away when he induced a double-play grounder by Evan Longoria, a play that started with a standout stop by Elvis Andrus, who flipped the ball from his glove to second baseman Michael Young.

"It wasn't as easy as Elvis made it look," manager Ron Washington said. "It was a tough play, but he's done it before."

David Murphy then made two nice defensive catches in left to close out a perfect seventh inning thrown by Alexi Ogando. Mike Adams gave up a run in the eighth, and Koji Uehara closed it out with a perfect ninth.

The Rangers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first on a two-run single by Hamilton, and the Rays pulled to within 2-1 on Joyce's homer in the second.

Runs were scarce most of the night, but the Rays gifted two to the Rangers. With two outs in the sixth, Hamilton scored after Rays shortstop Elliot Johnson booted a sharply hit grounder by Nelson Cruz.

In the seventh, Mitch Moreland scored on a throwing error by catcher Jose Molina -- a play that allowed Ian Kinsler to advance to second. That led to the intentional walk of Hamilton, and the rest is history.

"Josh is going to get walked a lot, and go on ahead -- don't care," Washington said. "They will pay. Somebody will get them."

Fittingly, it was Beltre on Adrian Beltre Bobblehead Night.

Drew Davison

817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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