With how hot Adrian Beltre is playing right now, the Texas Rangers are hoping he doesn't burn out when the postseason arrives.
Beltre, the American League Player of the Week, fell a triple shy of his second cycle in less than a week in Monday's 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays and his RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning proved to be the difference. Beltre, who became the sixth Ranger to hit for the cycle in Friday's 8-0 win over Minnesota, is 13-for-25 with six homers and 13 runs batted in over his last six games.
"He's been locked in for the last week and it has been fun to watch," Texas DH Michael Young told the club's website. "He's on an absolute tear. He's definitely leading the way offensively."
Beltre's performance in Monday's opener of a three-game set comes on the heels of two straight 0-for-4 games.
Nelson Cruz also went deep for the AL West-leading Rangers, who are 5 1/2 games ahead of Oakland in the division standings and have won eight of their last 10 games. A win tonight would give Texas its fourth straight series triumph.
Derek Holland was bailed out by his offense for the win last night and allowed five runs, three of which were earned, and six hits in six innings. Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan threw a scoreless inning apiece to preserve the win, while Nathan nailed down his 26th save.
The Rangers are 6-2 so far on a 10-game homestand and will send rookie Yu Darvish to the mound Tuesday. Darvish hasn't pitched since a 3-2 loss at Toronto on Aug. 17 and struck out 10 batters in seven innings of that one, allowing three runs and three hits in the process.
Darvish missed a start because of right quad tightness and threw bullpen sessions on both Saturday and Sunday. The Japanese right-hander is 1-3 in his last four decisions and 12-9 with a 4.51 ERA in 23 starts this season. Darvish is 8-2 in 11 starts in Arlington and has never faced Tampa Bay.
The Rays lost their grip on the wild card and now sit one-half game behind both Baltimore and Oakland. They opened a seven-game trek on a sour note last night, as David Price failed to become the majors' first 17-game winner by yielding six runs and 10 hits in just four innings.
"This thing is going to ebb and flow the rest of the season, there's no question it's going to come down to the nubs," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Our goal is to still win the division, not just get in as a wild card."
Tampa Bay, which is four games behind New York for the AL East lead, got a two-run homer from Evan Longoria and two RBI out of B.J. Upton. The club has now lost three straight and four of six contests.
The Rays have to feel good knowing that James Shields is taking the mound this evening since they have won eight of his past 10 starts. Shields is 4-0 with a 2.15 earned run average over his previous five outings and is coming off a 5-3 win over Kansas City last Wednesday in which he allowed three runs in 7 2/3 innings to improve to 12-7 in 26 starts with a 4.01 ERA.
Shields is 7-3 in 13 road assignments in 2012 and defeated Texas back on April 27 in an 8-4 road decision. He allowed four runs in six innings in that one and is 6-2 with a 3.32 ERA in nine career starts against the Rangers.
The Rays took two of three from Texas in that April series in Arlington, and will host the Rangers for three games Sept. 7-9 at Tropicana Field.