Saturday, August 25, 2012
Hard to defuse Rangers' 3-4 dynamite
By Jeff Caplan
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was brought to cleanup hitter Adrian Beltre's attention that his RBI total of 74 prior to Friday's game is pretty good. But how many more could he have if he didn't bat behind slugger Josh Hamilton, the majors' RBI leader?
"Nah, I have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs," the humble Beltre said prior to hitting for his second career cycle in Friday's 8-0 wipeout of the hapless Minnesota Twins. "I don’t think that’s the case, especially because he’s on base a lot and even though he brings a lot home, he’s on base a lot. I’m not complaining because I have my share of opportunities to drive in runs."
Such was the case right off the bat Friday after Hamilton kept the first inning alive with a two-out single to left. Beltre followed with a blast off the bottom of the left-center field wall for his first triple in more than two years to score Hamilton. It was Beltre's 75th RBI in his 121st game of the season. In the second inning he notched RBI No. 76 with a rope down the left field line. And RBI No. 77 came in the fifth inning on home run No. 24.
Still, the 77 RBIs rank Beltre just 12th in the American League.
So consider how many more he might have if the man in front of him wasn't a run-producing machine. Hamilton, even with his abysmal June and July, leads the majors with 107 RBIs. Detroit's Miguel Cabrera is second with 106. After that, no one is even close. Minnesota's Josh Willingham has 91 and Detroit's Prince Fielder has 89.
Last season, Beltre had 105 RBIs in 124 games. His 77 this season are in 121. But then Hamilton only played in 121 last season, with 94 RBIs -- 13 fewer than he's already amassed in four fewer games. With Hamilton's 34 homers tied for second in the majors -- and nine more than he hit all last season -- plus 23 doubles, Beltre doesn't always come to the plate with ducks on the pond.
Not that he's complaining. And if Hamilton has more five RBI-nights like Thursday, perhaps Beltre will soon find teams more willing to walk the free-swinging Hamilton for Beltre's laser-like bat.
Either way, the Rangers' 3-4 combo, through slumps and ruts, ranks in the top two in baseball in homers and RBIs. This week, it's been Beltre's turn to go deep into the zone with five homers in his last three games, three consecutive games of at least three hits and the coveted cycle Friday night for the second time in his career.
"It's more confidence than anything. When you start hitting the ball good you don't think as much at home plate and you have that confidence in you," Beltre said. "If you feel right in your head and you feel comfortable, most likely you're going to be OK. So I don' think I'm in a zone, but I feel comfortable at home plate."