ARLINGTON -- Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is hurting. He has some scar tissue in his abdomen from a surgery he had long ago that is causing a certain amount of discomfort. He just won't say how much."Everybody is sore at this time of year," Beltre said. Beltre "tweaked" the muscle during Monday's game with the Athletics, but there was no chance he was coming out of the game. Beltre doesn't like coming out of any game, much less one with a division title on the line this late in September. Instead, Beltre stayed around and continued his late-season heroics, hitting a game-tying two-run home run in the seventh and a game-winning single in the ninth to give the Rangers a 5-4 victory at the Ballpark in Arlington. "He's a pro. ... He's winner," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The guy doesn't think about anything except what he can do to help the team win. He came up big night." Beltre now leads the American League with 19 game-winning RBIs this season. He also has eight in the Rangers' last 20 wins, which may be why fans were chanting "M-V-P!" as he was getting mobbed by teammates at first base after his game-winning hit. "That's nice, but I didn't hear it," Beltre said. "I'm not doing anything but trying to do my job, get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on the ball. They gave me some good pitches to hit." Josh Hamilton was also big in his return to the lineup, as his 43rd home run of the season helped the Rangers open up a five-game lead in the American League West with nine left in the season. Their magic number to win a third consecutive division title is now down to five. "We're at the fun point of the season where every game is big," designated hitter Michael Young said. "That's the way it's going to be until the end of the season. This is the fun part. We have been spoiled by it the past couple of seasons and we want to keep it going." Beltre's heroics came on a night when Rangers starter Derek Holland lasted just three innings and 77 pitches, his second shortest outing of the season. Holland gave up three runs, but the combination of Roy Oswalt, Robbie Ross, Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan combined to hold the Athletics to just one more the rest of the way. "I didn't do my part," Holland said. "I was very disappointed with the way I pitched, but the bullpen came up huge tonight. I was behind every batter and wasn't throwing anything for strikes. I was very erratic." Holland left trailing, 3-1, but Hamilton made it a one-run game with a 441-foot home run into the upper deck of the right-field stands with one out in the fifth against Oakland starter Dan Straily. Beltre followed that with a double but then got picked off second base when a pitch in the dirt didn't get far enough away from catcher Derek Norris. "That was a dumb thing to do," said Beltre, who was sitting in the dugout when Nelson Cruz followed with a double to right-center. The Rangers didn't score that inning. That was also the inning that Beltre felt an increase in pain and discomfort in his abdomen. But he stayed in the game and everything changed when Oakland manager Bob Melvin went to his bullpen with two out in the seventh after a terrific outing by Straily. At that point, Straily had thrown 99 pitches and Melvin wanted a left-hander to face Hamilton. But Jerry Blevins walked Hamilton so Melvin called on right-hander Pat Neshek to face Beltre. Right-handers were 4-for-46 with no home runs against Neshek but Beltre is no ordinary right-hander. Beltre fell behind 1-2 in the count and then crushed a slider to the opposite field for his 35th home run of the season. "He just made a bad pitch to Beltre," Melvin said. "He's got him in a good count to potentially expand, and what he was trying to do was throw a slider off the plate, and he just left it on the plate." The game was still tied when Mitch Moreland led off the ninth inning with a single off of Athletics reliever Tyson Ross. Craig Gentry replaced him as a pinch-runner and Ian Kinsler followed with a single to left. Elvis Andrus moved the runners up to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, and Hamilton was walked intentionally. That brought up Beltre, who laced a single up the middle to drive home the winning run and set up a mob scene around first base. "I like our chances in that situation," Young said. "Oakland has some really great pitching but Adrian is swinging the bat as well as anybody in baseball right now." So far, the pain in his stomach is not keeping him from that.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.