Motivating Beltre backfires on Red Sox

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Beltre agreed with Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell's decision to intentionally walk Lance Berkman to get to Beltre in the bottom of the ninth Sunday afternoon.

He even said he would have done it. That doesn't mean it didn't motivate the Rangers' emerging cleanup hitter, especially since Farrell made the same choice in the seventh inning.

The rest of the league might not like it much after Beltre's walk-off single with two outs in the ninth beat Boston 4-3 and finished off a three-game sweep of the team that entered the weekend with baseball's best record. Sunday concludes and the Rangers, Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals all have the best record at 20-11.

The Rangers are tied with baseball's best mark because Farrell tempted fate against one of the most dangerous hitters in the American League. Beltre lives for these moments.

"I always want to be in that situation," Beltre said. "I like it when the opposing manager walks the guy in front of me. That's my job."

Berkman was intentionally walked in the seventh inning with two runners on and two outs and Beltre swung at a fastball out of the strike zone and grounded back to the pitcher to keep the score at 3-3. That served as motivation for Beltre later.

"It's not a good pitch to hit, but I've hit that pitch before," Beltre said. "I shouldn't have swung at that pitch."

The dramatic finish set up for Beltre when Elvis Andrus started a two-out rally with a single to center field. Red Sox reliever Clayton Mortensen proceeded to throw two balls to Berkman, one of them for a wild pitch, allowing Andrus to move to second. With Berkman, the Rangers' most-selective hitter at the plate, Ferrell elected to not pitch to the veteran designated hitter and instead chose to face Beltre.

"It's just better to put him on base," Beltre said. "Lance is hard to pitch around. It makes sense."

Beltre is 6-for-36 with runners in scoring position this season, but that's not why Farrell decided to walk him. He wanted the righty-righty matchup with Mortensen against Beltre, and he also wanted to set up the force play.

Mortensen got ahead of Beltre with a 1-2 count on all sliders. Beltre even swung through the third pitch in the sequence. He didn't miss the fourth slider, lining it over the glove of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia's glove for the Rangers' first walk-off hit of the season.

Beltre, determined after the seventh inning groundout, wasn't going to be denied this time. It was the Rangers' only hit in six at-bats with runners in scoring position for the game. It was the 12th walk-off hit of Beltre's stellar career.

"You have a little more, 'I have to do it now because I screwed up the first one,' so I have to do it now," Beltre said. "You always want to be the guy that helped your team win at the end. In those situations, you want to come through."

The Rangers put up their best effort against a Boston pitching staff that threw well all day. Red Sox starter Jon Lester retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced.

But the one hit he allowed in the first three innings was an opposite-field home run to Mitch Moreland with one out in the bottom of the third, offsetting one of the two homers the Red Sox hit off of Rangers starter Yu Darvish in the first two innings. Moreland's home run put the Rangers back in the game, down 3-1.

"Mitch put up a run that really mattered," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Then, we kind of caught up to Lester with [Nelson] Cruz's homer."

The Rangers waited until the sixth inning to score again when Cruz, who has had clutch hit after clutch hit this season, hit a two-run home run to center field to tie the game at three.

It deadlocked Darvish and Lester and turned the game into a battle of bullpens. The Rangers are 4-2 now in games tied through seven innings.

They were able to grind out three runs on Lester and grind out a walk-off win.

"He's always been tough on us," Beltre said. "That's a guy I don't enjoy facing. I played with him. I know how good he is. Today, we had Yu on the mound, and we wanted to try somehow [to] score some runs for him. He was tough. He was tough the whole game. Nelson got us back in the game when Nelson hit the home run to center field."