ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mike Trout is the champion of the WAR stat and Miguel Cabrera is on a quest for the Triple Crown. But right now, with the AL West title in the balance and the Texas Rangers trying to surge toward another postseason appearance and what they hope is a third straight AL crown, is there anyone more valuable to his team than Adrian Beltre?
Even in a lineup as deep as the heart of the Rangers', Beltre has found a way to stand out. And he did it again Monday in a 5-4 Rangers win that ended with his RBI single in the ninth (and his teammates tapping the top of his head, something he hates, which is why they do it).
His feats are becoming even more amazing considering he's clearly not close to 100 percent, no matter how much he tries to shrug it off. Beltre admitted that he tweaked his abdominal area on a swing in the fifth inning and it was bothering him the rest of the game. But he wouldn't call it an injury. More like "discomfort" or "soreness."
But that's Beltre. Nothing seems to slow him down.
"He’s a pro," manager Ron Washington said. "He’s a winner. This guy doesn’t think about anything but doing what he has to do for his team. He certainly came up big for us tonight."
Beltre was all over Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Monday. He made a diving stop in the sixth to save a run, though the A's did eventually score it that inning. He made a baserunning mistake that only seemed to fuel him, straying too far off the big on a ball in the dirt and then getting thrown out trying to retreat to second.
"It was kind of dumb," Beltre said. "I thought that ball was going to go farther than it did and I couldn’t get back quick enough."
After that, Beltre looked very smart. He doubled in the fifth and felt a tweak in his stomach, yet he continued to play. With the Rangers down 4-2 in the seventh with two outs and Josh Hamilton at first base, Beltre hit a 1-2 slider over the wall in right to tie the score. He hit it off right-hander Pat Neshek, who hadn't allowed a home run to a right-handed hitter in 46 previous at-bats against them. In fact, he had given up just four hits to right-handed hitters.
"I saw sliders -- all sliders," Beltre said. "The chart says he throws a lot of sliders. He threw me two that I missed, the last one was up in the strke zone and I was able to put a good swing on it."
It seemed that once Ian Kinsler got the second single of the ninth that the game would find Beltre again. Elvis Andrus got the sacrifice bunt down, Hamilton was intentionally walked and the A's, as they should, played for the double play. Beltre said he just wanted to hit the ball hard in the air and instead grounded up the middle for his 19th game-winning RBI of 2012, which leads the AL.
He sat in front of his locker in the clubhouse and smiled that his team was one step closer to another AL West title as the magic number dipped to five and the lead in the AL West increased to five games. Beltre said he wouldn't let the pain stop him from contributing.
"I don’t think it’s a big deal," Beltre said of his ailments. "Sometimes I like playing with pain. It gets my concentration (up) a little more. I'm just seeing the ball and hitting it and not trying to do too much. I don’t mind playing with a little pain or discomfort."
As for why he's in such a groove, one that includes a .366 average since Aug. 22 with 16 homers and 30 RBIs, Beltre just shrugged.
"I’m just getting lucky lately," Beltre said.
Really? Lucky is winning the lottery, Adrian. The fans in attendance in Arlington knew what to call it as they chanted: 'MVP' at the end of the game.