Adrian Beltre and Matt Harrison Make Baseball Look Easy

By Peter Ellwood

Adrian Beltre hit for the cycle in tonight’s Texas Rangers’ 8-0 trouncing of the Minnesota Twins. He started off with the hardest one by tripling in the first inning, then doubled in the second inning, homered in the fifth, and singled in the seventh inning to complete the oddity known as the cycle. The triple for Beltré was his first since July 26, 2010, and just the 29th of his 8,555 plate appearance career. That makes this cycle rather unlikely, but not nearly as unlikely as when Bengie Molina collected one for the Rangers in 2010 against Beltré’s team at the time, the Boston Red Sox.

A cycle in baseball is interesting, only because it makes a box score look more complete. However, there are far more impressive things that a batter can do on a baseball diamond. One of those things is, for instance, hit three home runs in a game. Shockingly, Beltré did that just two days ago. The proximity of those two events makes Beltré the only other player to hit a three home run game and hit for the cycle in the same week since Joe DiMaggio did so in 1948. Beltré is also the first player to hit a cycle for and against the same team (he had one in 2008 against the Rangers while a member of the Seattle Mariners) since 1940.

Every MLB team is a MLB team made up of really good baseball players; mind-blowingly good baseball players. The Twins are one of those teams, and even a player on their team like Alexi Casilla and his .532 OPS is a really good baseball player. However, when you watch the Twins play the Rangers there is a clear difference in the quality of team that is put on the field. The Rangers have outscored the Twins by 12 runs on the way to winning the first two games of this four-game series, and the games weren’t actually even that close. There is absolutely an “any given day” element to Major League Baseball, or else the Twins would never win. So the Rangers still deserve credit for beating a team of really good baseball players, but they certainly made it look easy tonight.

Speaking of making it look easy, Matt Harrison delivered for his second straight start for the Rangers. He actually flirted with a no-hitter, taking it into the 7th inning before allowing a hit with two outs. In his last two starts, Harrison has now pitched 16 innings, allowed four hits, given up two runs, walked three, and struck out 12. That’s 16-4-2-2-3-12, if you prefer to absorb its greatness in that format. Harrison is tied for the 7th-best ERA in the American League, and is just one of four pitchers with 15 wins. Harrison still doesn’t strike many guys out, gives up a decent amount of walks as well as about a hit per inning, but he defies convention and still delivers results. It may not last forever, but he is living right at the moment. He is now just 16.2 innings shy of his career high in innings pitched that he reached in 2011, and he is showing no signs of this breakout season coming to an end. Last season, Harrison ran into some fatigue issues as the season wore on, but he has only seemed to grow stronger in 2012. Of course, playing the Twins doesn’t hurt.

There were just a total of 251 pitches thrown in this game that was completed in two hours and 16 minutes (Harrison ranks as the 3rd-fastest working pitcher in baseball according to Fangraphs). The Twins may have been overmatched by a Texas team that has gotten into an offensive groove in the past week on the back of Beltré, David Murphy, and Mitch Moreland, but at least they kept things efficient.

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