ARLINGTON -- Just months after their first trip to the World Series, the Rangers signed free agent Adrian Beltre, figuring he could be the final piece to a championship.So to see Beltre make his presence known in Game 1 of 19 against the American League West rival Angels, who roared into Arlington on a five-game winning streak, certainly sent a message to the visitor's dugout. Beltre's three-run home run staked C.J. Wilson to a big lead, and the Rangers went on to a 7-1 victory over the Angels on Monday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers took over sole possession of first place in the division and have now held the top spot in the AL West for 136 of the last 137 days. "That was game over right there," Wilson said of Beltre's homer. "It wasn't even that bad of a pitch. He just mashed it." Beltre took a slider down and away from Angels starter Ervin Santana and lifted it over the center-field fence for a 6-0 lead. The three-run shot, giving Beltre his second consecutive game with three RBIs, allowed Wilson to pitch around nine hits. Beltre's presence in the middle of the Rangers' lineup is crucial with AL Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton out for at least five more weeks. Beltre has three or more RBIs in four of the Rangers' 16 games. He has five home runs, and he showed once again that he can handle any pitcher. "That's why [Adrian] is such a deadly hitter," Wilson said, "because he can hit pitches that are pretty deadly pitches. He's done it against me before." Beltre's homer created the separation Wilson needed. Wilson said he was better Monday than he has been in his first three starts, even though the wind seemed to play havoc with some of his pitches. Wilson had two crucial strikeouts of Howard Kendrick and Bobby Abreu after allowing two leadoff singles in the top of the third inning. And that was preceded by a much-needed double-play grounded into by Torii Hunter in the top of the first with two men on. Wilson threw a boatload of pitches -- 116 -- and he wasn't happy with that. But he was able to get two strikes on most hitters, and he said now he just needs to improve his out pitches heading into his next start against Kansas City. "I felt a little bit more myself," Wilson said. "I still don't feel like I'm all the way back to where I want to be yet. But considering the last couple of starts I've had were pretty below average for me, to go out there and throw that many pitches and keep the scoring down and keep the pace up, that was good." The Rangers waited until the fourth inning to stage a two-out rally against Santana. Nelson Cruz and David Murphy had singles and Mike Napoli turned a 10-pitch at-bat into a walk. "There were some good pitches right there that Nap fouled off," said Angels catcher Jeff Mathis, Napoli's former roommate in L.A. "He got Ervin's pitch count up, made him battle longer." Right fielder Mitch Moreland took advantage, drilling a two-run single up the middle just past the diving attempt of shortstop Maicer Izturis for a 2-0 lead. Beltre's home run was preceded by the Rangers making it 3-0 with a little small ball. Ian Kinsler led off with a triple, and he scored on perfectly executed squeeze play by Elvis Andrus, who reached second base on a throwing error. Andrus had worked the count to a ball and a strike when he pounced. "I wanted to call it on the first pitch," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That was big." Beltre's three-run homer, Andrus' execution on the squeeze play, Wilson gutting it out for the seven innings -- all of it was just what the Rangers needed after losing two straight over the weekend to the New York Yankees. "That was the big thing that I took upon myself last year, that I had to go out there and try to stop skids anytime I got a chance to pitch after we lost a game," Wilson said. "I have to go out there and outpitch this other dude tonight. I have to go out there and dominate. I didn't really dominate tonight, the line score looks OK, but I wasn't really happy with it. But it was better than I've been pitching lately."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.