Veteran Adrian Beltre set up the Texas Rangers’ 4-3 victory by hitting a trio of home runs, and hard-throwing reliever Neftali Feliz finished the job by shutting down the ninth-inning rally. With the tying run on first and two out, Desmond Jennings chopped a weak grounder to second base. Ian Kinsler snagged it with care and pitched it to shortstop Elvis Andrus, who recorded the final out. The two men danced like little children before springing into each others’ arms in a violent hug.
Three straight victories against the Rays in this best-of-five American League Division Series gave the Rangers a date with either the Detroit Tigers or New York Yankees in the next round of the postseason as they try to return to the World Series for the second straight year – this time, to avenge last year’s loss to San Francisco in five games.
“They’re on a mission from last year,” Texas Rangers team president Nolan Ryan said. “They didn’t get it done and finished.”
That was Tampa Bay’s lament Tuesday. After improbably climbing back from nine games back in the race for the playoffs in the season’s last month, the Rays couldn’t get the lead in a close game they trailed from the second pitch. A leadoff home run by Kinsler and Beltre’s three provided just enough to ensure that the Rays’ historic run through the end of the regular season would be the season’s best memory for Tampa Bay’s players.
“Baseball’s hard, man,” said Rays right fielder Matt Joyce, who made the game’s second-to-last out with a pop fly caught by Beltre in foul territory. “We have an immense amount of talent on this team. We pulled out so many comebacks, had so many guys do a phenomenal job for us this year that it’s a little bit disappointing to finish this way… We couldn’t muster up any more.”
The victory set off a wild celebration in the visitor’s locker room at Tropicana Field, where Rangers players donned swim goggles to administer and endure the spray of ginger ale, champagne and cans of soda. The most obvious target of the non-stop shower of beverages was Beltre, who couldn’t complete an interview without being doused until being whisked off to the interview room.
Beltre, who has played 13 seasons for four teams, called the performance his best day as a pro besides getting his first major league hit back in 1998.
“Because,” he said, “my team needed every bit of it to win the game tonight, and that means something.”
Beltre homered twice on fastballs thrown by rookie starter Jeremy Hellickson in the second and fourth innings, then got his third in the seventh off of reliever Matt Moore. Moore had been summoned in the fifth to pick up the pieces for Hellickson, who allowed just four hits — three of which were home runs. I