Credit: Getty Images
Adrian Beltre watches his walk-off home run against the Los Angeles Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 31, 2013. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Wednesday, Jul 31 at 11:13 PM
ARLINGTON – As the ball left Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre’s bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, the crowd stood in unison for the third straight night.
Los Angeles Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton merely turned, walked to his right and looked over his shoulder as the crowd roared, a crowd that kept roaring as the ball landed in the left field seats.
For the third straight night, the Rangers defeated the Angels in either exhilarating or demoralizing fashion, depending on which side of home plate you were cheering for.
Texas defeated Los Angeles 2-1 to complete a three-game sweep of the Angels.
For the third straight night, the Rangers beat the Angels with a walk-off home run.
After the game, Rangers manager Ron Washington exhaled slowly before addressing the media members seated in front of him.
“When we’re at our best, this is what you get,” Washington said. “Not three walk-off home runs, but different people getting it done. That’s what we need in our lineup – different people getting it done.”
The Texas (59-49) offense that got it done when it needed to in its three-game set with the Angels (48-58) hadn’t produced the numbers it needed during a rough month for the Rangers.
When the Rangers started play in July, Texas owned a slim half-game AL West lead over the Oakland A’s that disappeared into the sizzling Texas summer heat.
Wednesday night represented the last day of a month that’s seen the Rangers play every single game while in second place in the division.
It represented the last game in a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels. It also represented a potential series-sweep of the Angels and a promising sign entering August, the bookend to an otherwise bleak month.
For the third straight night, the Rangers needed a dramatic finish to keep hopes of a dramatic late-summer comeback from sinking.
Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski stood on-deck as he watched Beltre’s blast off Angels reliever Michael Kohn sail into the stands and move the team within four games of the A’s in the division and a half-game back of Cleveland for the final wild-card spot.
“Just watching it go, I knew right when he hit it – it was going to be a home run,” Pierzynski said.
Had Texas starting pitcher Martin Perez not allowed just one earned run – a home run to Hamilton – in 7 1/3 innings, or Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan not been blemish-free in relief, Beltre’s shot may have not been as significant.
Had Texas’ offense produced more runs than Nelson Cruz’s solo homer in the second inning, the Rangers wouldn’t have needed to bat in the bottom of the ninth, avoiding the most exhilarating ending in all of baseball.
But those possibilities failed to fulfill themselves, leaving Beltre to deliver an offense and team that’s kept itself in the playoff chase.
“Being able to walk-off three times in a row, and our offense has probably been the reason why we struggled the last three weeks, and our offense has been a lot better,” Beltre said.
After facing the perils of falling deeper behind Oakland and Cleveland, the Rangers closed the month of July with three straight walk-off wins, wins that kept the Rangers’ hopes of a playoff berth alive as the season enters its final two months.
“In the game of baseball, you struggle sometimes,” Washington said. “Sometimes struggle takes you a little deeper than you’d like to go, and it took us deeper than we wanted to be. But we never doubted that we could come out of it.”
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