Adrian Beltre shows off power stroke
Noted for defense, Rangers third baseman joins elite company with 3-homer game
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Some nights, Adrian Beltre's unorthodox, yet highlight-reel defensive play can overshadow his bat.
Such is the price for wearing a gold glove at third base, one of the tougher positions to play on the field. It's not that Beltre doesn't carry a big stick. He does. But all too often, he makes a ridiculous off-balance throw or scampers to a ball that few could even reach, and that's what everyone ends up talking about.
"When you win a Gold Glove and play like he does there, you have to hit 40 or 50 home runs or three in one game to get that attention," teammate Elvis Andrus said.
Beltre did manage a few top defensive plays -- as usual -- on Wednesday, but it was his bat that took center stage in the Texas Rangers' 12-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. The veteran homered in each of his first three at-bats -- a total of 1,187 feet of long-ball distance -- and had the dugout wondering if the Rangers could manage to have two different players hit four home runs against the Orioles.
"I told him to do it so we could have figurines together," said Josh Hamilton, who became the 16th player in baseball history to hit four homers in a game when he did it at Camden Yards on May 8. "I was on base for two of them."
Manager Ron Washington sure appreciates Beltre's all-around game and doesn't buy the idea that his glove takes the attention away from his bat.
"Adrian is a threat, always will be a threat, always has been a threat," Washington said. "He's more than one-dimensional. He's a complete baseball player. He can run the bases extremely well. I think everyone knows he can hit."
If they didn't, they do now.
Beltre admitted that after hitting a solo home run to lead off the second and a two-run shot in the fourth, he was swinging for the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington fences.
Beltre Part Of Rare List
Adrian Beltre's three-homer game is the first of his career in the regular season. He also hit three home runs in a 2011 ALDS game vs. the Rays.
Of the seven players in MLB history with a three-homer game in the postseason, Beltre is the fifth to accomplish the feat in the regular season as well.
3-HR game in regular season and playoffs
"I was trying to hit a home run," Beltre said. "After the second at-bat, I was trying to go deep and I did. After that, I was trying to go deep again, but it didn't work. I got a pitch to hit, to do it, too. I didn't get it done."
Few in the game have more fun than Beltre. OK, maybe the young shortstop that is positioned beside Beltre is one of those few. And Andrus had a lot of fun watching Beltre do his thing Wednesday.
"He's exciting to watch," Andrus said. "But we've seen him do this before, though, remember?"
Yep. This wasn't Beltre's first time to hit three home runs in the same game. He did it in Game 4 -- the deciding game -- of the 2011 ALDS at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays. In fact, he joins some elite company. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Beltre adds his name to the short list of players who have hit a three-homer game in the regular season and the postseason. The others: Albert Pujols, George Brett, Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth.
"That's flattering," Beltre said. "Those guys are Hall of Famers."
It was less than two years ago that Beltre was actually a Plan B acquisition for the Texas Rangers.
After two flights to Arkansas, back-and-forth negotiating and talk about the terrible traffic in the Dallas area ended with Cliff Lee signing with the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2010 season, the Rangers had money to spend and no pitcher on the market they felt was worth it.
So they decided to upgrade the defense and the middle of the lineup. They called Scott Boras and ended up handing Beltre $80 million guaranteed for five years with a $16 million option (that could vest) for a sixth year. The move made Beltre the long-term solution at third base and caused the shift of Michael Young to designated hitter.
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Outside of some hamstring issues, one that kept him out for five weeks in 2011, Beltre has become a staple in the middle of the order with Washington penciling him at cleanup nearly every night. He hit .296 last season with 32 homers and 105 RBIs in 124 games. Imagine what he might have done had he been in the lineup those other five weeks. This season, he's hitting .307 with 22 homers and 73 RBIs. On Wednesday, he became the ninth third baseman in baseball history with at least 10 career seasons of 20 or more home runs.
Interestingly, Beltre said he hasn't felt good at the plate for a while. He had one homer and seven RBIs in his previous 29 games before Wednesday night's breakthrough.
"I finally had a good game offensively," Beltre said. "I had been kind of struggling for a couple weeks. I wasn't able to drive the ball. Today was a good day. I hit the ball hard in the air.
"I've been working in the cages for a couple weeks with my hitting coach and trying to find a comfort zone. I didn't feel comfortable. We changed some things with my feet and hands. I didn't feel comfortable. The last three days, I stuck with what I was doing. Today, it paid off."
Beltre said he signed his long-term deal with Texas because he wanted to play for a team that he believed had a close-knit clubhouse and could be an annual playoff contender.
"This has been better than I expected," Beltre said of being a Ranger. "I'm comfortable. I like to be in a good clubhouse with a good group of guys. I can't mention one guy I don't like in here. That says something. You feel good coming to the park. You want to be here. It's like being at home."