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Texas Rangers advance to ALCS behind Beltre’s three home runs

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Ian Kinsler set the tone early with a leadoff home run and Adrian Beltre stole the show from there as the Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 in game four of the ALDS, advancing to the ALCS for the second consecutive year.

Kinsler put the Rays in an early hole as he hit the second pitch of the game from Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson into the left field stands to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. After Rangers’ starter Matt Harrison got out of the bottom of the first inning unscathed, Beltre began his historic day by blasting a solo home run to left to lead-off the second, putting the Rangers in front 2-0.

Harrison got into trouble in the second inning with a one-out walk to Sean Rodriguez who came around to score on a Matt Joyce RBI double. Rodriguez and Rangers’ catcher Mike Napoli had a vicious collision at home plate as the great relay throw was just a tad late, but both players would stay in the game. Harrison would go on to strike out the side in the second with the Rangers now up 2-1.

Beltre would get that run back for the Rangers in the fourth inning with a one-out solo home run to the opposite field, his second of the game, giving Texas a 3-1 lead. However the Rays would get that run right back in the bottom of the inning as Rodriguez had a two-out double and came to the plate on a Casey Kotchman RBI single, cutting the Rangers lead to 3-2.

It looked like the momentum could be turning to the Rays in the fifth inning when rookie phenom pitcher Matt Moore entered in relief of Hellickson. Moore retired the first six Rangers he faced, but Beltre greeted Moore with a leadoff home run to left in the seventh, giving the Rangers a 4-2 lead. It was Beltre’s third home run, making him just the sixth player in MLB history to accomplish the feat of hitting three home runs in a postseason game.

Harrison left the game after five solid innings, giving up two runs on five hits and tying a career-high with nine strikeouts. After being left off the postseason roster last season, Harrison picked up a win in his first ever postseason start.

The Rangers’ bullpen would do the job from there. Derek Holland, Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando combined for three shutout innings while allowing just one hit. Neftali Feliz ran into a little trouble in the ninth, giving up one run on a hit and a walk, but closed the door for his third save of the series. Feliz got Desmond Jennings to ground into a fielder’s choice to second as Kinsler flipped the ball to Elvis Andrus to send the Rangers back to the ALCS.

After the Rangers beat Tampa Bay in five games in last season’s ALDS, it took the Rangers just four games this season. Texas won all three games at Tropicana Field in the ALDS last year and won both games there this series, celebrating the clinching win both times in Tampa Bay.

The Rangers now will sit and wait for their next opponent, either the Detroit Tigers or the New York Yankees. Those two teams will play game five of their series tomorrow night in New York. If the Tigers win, the Rangers will open up at home Saturday. If it’s the Yankees, the Rangers will travel to the Bronx Saturday night.

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