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HOU@TEX: A. Beltre hits opposite-field, two-run homer

ARLINGTON - Adrian Beltre has a simple explanation for what's been happening at the plate over the past three weeks.

"This is what I'm supposed to be doing, right?" Beltre said.

That's one way to put it. Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler had his own take on Beltre.

"The only way I can really describe it, he's the MVP, he's having an MVP-caliber season," Kinsler said. "He's one of the best players in the league on one of the best teams and he does it night in and night out."

Beltre certainly has done it lately and he delivered again on Tuesday night with a two-run home run in the sixth inning off of Astros rookie starter Jarrod Cosart that lifted the Rangers to a 4-2 victory at Rangers Ballpark.

Beltre also had a double leading to the Rangers' first run in the second inning. The Rangers trailed 2-1 in the sixth when Beltre hit his 26th home run of the season, and it's the 10th time one of his blasts have put the Rangers ahead. The Rangers have now won 17 of their last 21 games. During that stretch, Beltre is hitting .429 with four home runs, 20 RBIs, a .516 on-base percentage and a .623 slugging percentage.

"That's what Beltre is all about," manager Ron Washington said. "As we go down the stretch, he has been right there for us."

The Rangers, with their second straight victory over the Astros in the three-game series and 13th in 15 games this season, are 4-3 on the current homestand. They play the Astros one more time on Wednesday at the Ballpark, then play 12 of their next 15 games on the road.

Beltre's latest offensive outburst came on a night when the Rangers were hoping to get as much as they could out of starter Travis Blackley and then have the bullpen carry them the rest of the way. That's exactly what happened.

Blackley, working slowly and deliberately in his first start of the season, went four innings and 66 pitches in his Rangers debut, allowing only a two-run home run to Matt Dominguez in the second.

"My goal was to get through five," said Blackley, who was a reliever with the Astros for much of the season before being acquired by the Rangers a week ago. "But they had a couple of at-bats that went longer than I wanted. They played me hard. They wanted to beat me as much as I wanted to beat them. But it was a solid outing. I was really happy with it."

So was Washington, considering the Rangers were down by just one run when Blackley left the game. The combination of Jason Frasor , Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan pitched five scoreless innings the rest of the way. Cotts earned his fifth win, Nathan earned his 37th save and Rangers relievers have a 2.12 ERA in their last 37 games.

"Getting him out of there after four innings and the score 2-1 made a significant difference," Washington said. "I thought [Blackley] did a good job. He hadn't been stretched out and he made one bad pitch to Dominguez, but after that he kept us in the ballgame. After the fourth inning, we felt he didn't need to be stretched out any more."

Frasor took over in the fifth and the Rangers got a big break at the expense of Astros designated hitter Max Stassi, who was making his Major League debut after being called up from Double-A Corpus Christi.

Stassi led off with a single for his first big league hit. After Frasor struck out Brandon Barnes, Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to Frasor, who went for the force at second and overthrew shortstop Elvis Andrus covering the bag. Stassi was safe, except he didn't realize it.

He apparently thought Andrus caught the ball and didn't realize Kinsler had actually done so while backing up the play. When Stassi wandered off the bag, Kinsler tagged him out. Frasor then struck out Robbie Grossman to end the inning.

"I slid in and lost track of the ball," Stassi said. "I thought he was on second, and the ball went past him. That's totally on me, and it's something that'll never happen again in my career. It just so happened on my debut."

That kept it a one-run game and allowed Beltre to put the Rangers ahead with his two-run home run off of Cosart in the sixth. The Rangers added an extra run in the eighth. Andrus and Kinsler singled with one out and then pulled off a double steal. That allowed Andrus to score with two out on a wild pitch by Josh Zeid

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