ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers weren’t quite sure what to expect out of Travis Blackley Tuesday, and the Australian delivered four solid innings in his first start for the club.
Good thing for the Rangers is that they knew exactly what to expect out of Adrian Beltre and once again he didn’t disappoint.
Beltre’s two-run homer in the sixth proved to be the difference as the Rangers rallied for a 4-2 victory over the Astros.
The Rangers reached 20 games over .500 for the first time this season and have won 13 of their 15 matchups against the Astros.
Beltre, who has had to pick up the power slack created by the suspension of Nelson Cruz, is now hitting .434 over the last 21 games and has continued to provide the Rangers with clutch hits.
“The only way I can really describe it is he’s the MVP,” said Ian Kinsler, who walked ahead of Beltre in the sixth. “He’s having an MVP-caliber season. He’s one of the best players in the league on one of the best teams. He does it night in, night out.”
The Rangers certainly needed it Tuesday. One night after blasting the Astros for 16 runs, the Rangers were scratching and clawing against Houston rookie righty Jarred Cosart.
Cosart allowed just one run over the first five innings and had a 2-1 lead going into the sixth. But his one-out walk of Kinsler brought Beltre to the plate, and after just missing a homer in the third, Beltre tagged his 26th of the season to give Texas a 3-2 edge. Ten of those homers have given the Rangers a lead.
“He’s been swinging the bat extremely well and been getting it done in situations when we really need him to get it done,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “That’s what Beltre’s about. It seems like every time we go down the stretch he’s right there ready to do it.”
Beltre, who is now hitting .326, said the only thing that’s changed during his recent hot streak is the balls are finding holes.
“This is what I’m supposed to be doing, right?” said Beltre, who scored the Rangers first run after leading off the second inning with a double. “I’ve been feeling better lately, definitely. I’ve been lucky lately. I’ve been finding some holes. Hopefully it will stay that way the whole season.”
The Rangers were in position for some more Beltre heroics because of the start by Blackley and the work of the bullpen.
Blackley, whom the Rangers acquired last week from Houston, made his first start of the year last Thursday by pitching three innings in Triple A. Tuesday he went four innings, throwing 66 pitches an allowing just two runs on a homer from Matt Dominguez in the second.
As the Rangers continue to search for a No. 5 starter because of injuries, Blackley staked his claim.
“My goal was to get through five,” Blackley said. “I had a couple of at-bats that went longer than I’d like. They played me hard and I think they wanted to beat me as bad as I wanted to beat them. It was a solid outing. I was really happy with it.”
Blackley allowed just three hits in his four innings, struck out two and walked one. But he kept the Rangers in the game long enough to allow the Rangers to get to their winning pieces in the bullpen. The foursome of Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan worked the final five innings, allowing three hits and striking out eight.
Washington liked what he saw from Blackley.
“I thought he did a good job really,” Washington said. “He made one pitch to Dominguez and other than that he did what he needed to do, keep us in the ballgame. Getting four out of him and with the score 2-1 it made a significant difference.”