Adrian Beltre hits three homers as Rangers eliminate Rays
Former Dodger Adrian Beltre hit three straight home runs and the Texas Rangers earned their second straight berth in the AL Championship Series, beating the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, Tuesday at St. Petersburg, Fla., to win their AL division series playoff matchup, 3-1.
Beltre became just the seventh player to homer three times in a postseason game. Texas ended the Rays' remarkable run to the AL wild card spot, and will play for the pennant against the Tigers-Yankees winner.
Ian Kinsler led off the game for Texas by homering on the second pitch from rookie Jeremy Hellickson.
Matt Harrison, who made a relief appearance in the Rangers' loss in the series opener, pitched five innings to get the win in his first postseason start. Neftali Feliz gave up a run in the ninth inning before closing for his third save of the series.
"The first couple games their pitching was really good," Beltre said. "Today something changed, I felt more comfortable at the plate, and I did something to help my team win."
Beltre hit solo shots off Jeremy Hellickson in the second and fourth innings, and added another solo drive against Game 1 winner Matt Moore in the seventh. The Rays weren't the only ones who had trouble keeping up with Beltre -- a television cameraman trying to run alongside Beltre to capture the image as the star jogged home did a face-first pratfall.
Beltre signed with Texas in the off-season after playing last year in Boston. He and Kinsler tied for the team lead with 32 homers, and Beltre had been on a late-season tear going into the playoffs.
"That's one of the main reasons I came to this team. We're looking good right now, but we still have a long way to go," he said.
Postseason three-homer games
AL division series
Game 4, 2011: Adrian Beltre, Texas at Tampa Bay
AL championship series
Game 5, 2002: Adam Kennedy, Angels vs. Minnesota
Game 3, 1978: George Brett, Kansas City at New York
NL championship series
Game 2, 1971: Bob Robertson, Pittsburgh at San Francisco
Game 6, 1977: Reggie Jackson, New York Yankees vs. Dodgers
Game 4, 1928: Babe Ruth, New York Yankees at St. Louis Cardinals
Game 4, 1926: Babe Ruth, New York Yankees at St. Louis Cardinals
Photo: Adrian Beltre hits one of his three homers. Credit: Pierre Ducharme / Reuters.