ARLINGTON, Texas – Sunday was another day in the education of Engel Beltre.
He ended his first week in the majors by scoring a crucial run on a squeeze bunt, then almost gave the game away with a poor decision on a throw from center field.
Overall, the Rangers have to be pleased that Beltre is learning on the job after a 3-2 win over Cincinnati. He was 2-for-3 with a run scored and recorded his first stolen base.
“It’s a learning process for those young guys out there,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “They play wide-open and we’ve just got to get them to learn how to play and think at the same time.”
There wasn’t much thinking involved when Beltre broke for home on Elvis Andrus’ bunt in the fifth inning.
Beltre, who led off the inning with a bunt single, bumped knees with catcher Devin Mesoraco as he slid into home. He also took a baseball to the ear when pitcher Matt Latos tried to shovel the ball to Mesocraco.
Beltre, obviously in pain, stayed down on the plate for several minutes but was able to return to action.
“That ball [to the ear] really crushed me, but the knee is the one I really feel,” Beltre said. “I twisted it, but I think I’ll be fine.”
Leonys Martin, who was on second, also scored on the play after seeing the ball glance off Beltre.
Martin had reached base by hustling for a double. The speed Beltre and Martin provide at the bottom of the order has resulted in five runs the last two games.
“It’s part of our game,” Martin said. “We played together in the minors and we’re taking advantage of it.”
However, in the eighth inning Beltre’s inexperience showed when he threw a relay to shortstop Elvis Andrus rather than to second base, allowing the potential tying run to advance to second.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler was on the edge of the outfield grass, between Beltre and the bag. Although Kinsler wasn’t on the base, a throw there likely would have prevented Brandon Phillips from advancing.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre pointed to second as the throw came into Andrus, who was between second and third.
“That play, I was trying to hit the cutoff,” Beltre explained. ” Kinsler, I saw him on the grass, but I was trying to get the cutoff to Andrus.
“I didn’t see nobody at second so I was trying to hit whatever cutoff and that’s what I went for.”
Phillips didn’t score, but when the inning ended Beltre was met by Adrian Beltre in the dugout.
“I think Adrian was trying to keep the pressure off him because Gary [Pettis, outfield coach] and I was going to get on him,” Washington said.
Martin appeared to take up for the younger Beltre and continued the discussion with the veteran third baseman.
“It’s a game situation,” Martin said. “It happens sometimes, but it was a really tough play. It was too quick to make a decision.”
Beltre and Martin had to make another quick decision in the ninth on a fly ball to right-center. Normally any ball a center fielder can get to belongs to him, but Martin flashed in front of Beltre from right field and made the catch.
Martin said he called off Beltre, but the two came alarmingly close to colliding.
“It was almost a tie game, so anybody [who can get to a ball] has to take it and we both ran for the play,” Martin said.
The play nearly resulted in a second big collision for Beltre, who has proven valuable in his brief time in the majors. He recorded his second multi-hit game in three career starts – he led off the Rangers’ third with a single – and has started three of the last four games in center field.
With Craig Gentry and Jeff Baker both on the disabled list, the Rangers don’t need either of their young outfielders coming up lame.
“We’re good,” Beltre said. “I think on that play we called it a little late, but it’s fine.”