Lately, Adrian Beltre has been getting Barry Bonds treatment from opposing pitchers. In other words, don't give him a thing to hit and if you want to be really safe, just have the catcher extend his right arm, step about three feet out of the batter's box and play soft toss for four pitches.
That treatment is well deserved, even if it might be a bit grating to Beltre. Ask Jarred Cosart, he's probably wishing he would've adhered to the plan on Tuesday night.
Beltre came to the plate following an Ian Kinsler walk in the sixth inning with his team trailing the last-place Astros and Cosart, 2-1, and the rest was history. Beltre smoked a mistake to the opposite field, clearing the right-field wall after it first appeared to be nothing more than a long out to give the Texas Rangers a 3-2 lead in a game they'd end up winning 4-2 to move 20 games over .500 for the first time this year.
"This is what I'm supposed to be doing, right?" Beltre told reporters after the game.
Yup, that's it.
It's what Beltre's been doing since joining the Rangers in 2011. Last season, when Josh Hamilton had disappeared, Beltre carried the Rangers down the stretch and ended up finishing in third place in the AL MVP voting behind Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and rookie phenom Mike Trout, who both had once-in-a-lifetime seasons (well, at least we thought).
This year, Cabrera is a real possibility to win the Triple Crown for a second straight year and former Rangers first baseman Chris Davis is right behind him. But Beltre's numbers and particularly his performance down the stretch should have him in the running once again.
Beltre won AL Player of the Month for July, when he hit for a .369/.414/.670 slash with nine home runs and 19 RBIs in 26 July starts. Now, since Aug. 1, Beltre is hitting .406/.506/.594 with three homers, 17 RBIs and 12 walks in 18 games.
Beltre will probably finish third again, behind Cabrera and Davis, but could pass up Davis if Texas makes the playoffs and Baltimore doesn't. None of that matters, but his teammates sure believe he's the league's best.
"The only way I can really describe it is he's an MVP," Kinsler said. "He's having an MVP-caliber season. He's one of the best players in the league on one of the best teams. He does it night in and night out."