CLEVELAND -- The past two weeks have revealed that Adrian Beltre is the key cog in the Texas Rangers' mighty lineup.
Without their third baseman among the starting nine this season, the Rangers were 1-5 entering the second of three games against Cleveland, and they had been without him during their three-game losing streak.
The All-Star wasn't a starter Saturday, and, true to the numbers, the Rangers were in danger of losing yet again to the Indians. But he was available in a pinch, and he squeezed the life out of the Rangers' skid.
Beltre launched a pinch-hit three-run homer in the 11th inning, following an intentional walk to Mitch Moreland, and the resulting 5-2 victory was the Rangers' first since Monday.
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As Beltre circled the bases, he felt no pain in his left hamstring, and the Rangers were feeling a big sense of relief.
"It felt so good I didn't even remember trotting around the bases," Beltre said. "It's a way to help my team win. We've been going through a tough stretch lately. I'm not in the lineup, so I feel better that I was able to contribute."
The blast to center field was estimated at 456 feet into a stiff breeze blowing into Progressive Field. It was the Rangers' first pinch hit of the season.
The hit was the first for Beltre against Indians right-hander Joe Smith, whose sidearm delivery had made Beltre uncomfortable in their previous five encounters.
No. 6 was set up after Nelson Cruz had reached second base with two outs and first base open. Indians manager Manny Acta went to the mound, with Beltre in plain sight in the on-deck circle.
A lefty, Tony Sipp, was available in the Indians' bullpen for Moreland, but Smith was the choice against Beltre. He crushed the second pitch of the at-bat.
It's been a common sight to see Josh Hamilton walked ahead of Beltre, but he wasn't surprised to see Moreland given the free pass.
"I think it was pretty obvious they were going to walk him," Beltre said. "I was thinking this is my opportunity to put a good swing on the ball and get a single."
Derek Holland allowed only one earned run in 7 1/3 innings, but he didn't factor in the decision after both Cleveland runs in the eighth were charged to him.
He struck out Lou Marson to start the eighth, but Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis followed with back-to-back singles to end Holland's night.
Mike Adams entered, and allowed an RBI double to Asdrubal Cabrera. Kipnis scored an unearned run when catcher Mike Napoli couldn't secure an Adams pitch and was charged with a passed ball.
Adams, though, struck out Carlos Santana and got Travis Hafner on a grounder to first to strand Cabrera at third.
"The winning run didn't score, and that was the most important thing," manager Ron Washington said.
Beltre ran, took grounders and participated in batting practice before the game, but he still isn't sure when he will be ready to return to the lineup.
It could be Monday when the Rangers open a four-game series at Baltimore, but he is taking a cautious approach to the continued discomfort.
Beltre has typically played through nagging injuries and pressed to return to the lineup. That's what cost him an additional three weeks on the disabled list last year after aggravating a hamstring injury in August.
So, he's playing it safe. When he does return, he will be careful on the bases and won't extend himself.
"It's not easy watching from the dugout," Beltre said. "I'm trying to be smart about it. It's tough to do. When I get in there, I have to know what my limitation is," Beltre said. "I'm going to have to be smart, and the first couple games I'll be station-to-station."
Or he could just keep hitting homers, like his game-winner Saturday, and not have to worry about how quickly he gets around the bases.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760