Adrian Beltre turned in a monster game against the Red Sox on Friday. He went 4-for-5 and delivered a bases-clearing double that broke the game open in the fourth inning. It’s exactly the type of performance that can bust a veteran out of a prolonged slump, and if that happens with Beltre, the Rangers could become even more dangerous.
Meanwhile, Boston’s third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, went 0-for-3 and committed an error, continuing what has been a difficult start to the season.
Round 1 clearly went to Beltre, but both third basemen can turn to each other as a source of inspiration throughout this series.
Beltre entered Friday’s game in the midst of a horrendous stretch. He was 4-for-31 (.129) over his last eight games, 2-for-20 (.100) over his last five, and he made some crucial outs in the Rangers’ 3-1 loss to the White Sox on Thursday. The groans in Arlington were beginning to grow louder and louder, and it was somewhat reasonable to wonder whether the 34-year-old might be in line for a season-long setback in a lineup that lost plenty of offensive firepower — Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young — during the offseason.
With all of that considered, a marginal performance out of Beltre would have been an encouraging sign, never mind an offensive clinic like Friday’s.
“Beltre has got a track record, and the guys in my lineup have got a track record,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said after Friday’s game. “Beltre is a run producer, there wasn’t anyone more upset about it than Beltre. But I’m happy that he said he’s not frustrated because when you get frustrated you go blind. And undoubtedly, tonight he wasn’t blind.”
Beltre must now ensure Friday’s performance wasn’t a fluke, though. May has historically been Beltre’s worst month — lowest batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS — so he must build on his big game and generate momentum, rather than expect it to come simply because he put together a solid four-at-bat stretch against Felix Doubront and Alex Wilson. If Beltre is looking for some added motivation in his quest to right his ship, he need not look any further than across field.
Middlebrooks put together a four-hit performance of his own back on April 7. (In fact, Middlebrooks’ four-hit effort was even more impressive, as he launched three home runs while guiding the Red Sox to a 13-0 victory over the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.) Since then, however, Middlebrooks has struggled mightily. He began to make some strides during the Red Sox’ final series of their recent 10-game homestand, but he’s made a couple of errors the last few nights, he’s 2-for-15 since heading back out on the road and his season average is down to .193.
There’s a huge difference between Beltre and Middlebrooks, obviously. (One has been an All-Star each of the last three seasons, while the other is a 24-year-old still developing.) However, the considerable drop-off that Middlebrooks experienced following his “breakout performance” earlier this season can still serve as a cautionary tale for any major leaguer looking to build off a big game.
And just as Beltre can look to Middlebrooks’ slump as motivation for stringing together consecutive big games, Middlebrooks can also turn to the veteran as a little source of inspiration. Beltre is one of Middlebrooks’ Boston predecessors, and no one in their current position of employment wants to hear how good the old guy used to be, right?
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