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06/30/10 2:44 AM ET

Beltre's debut comes in key game vs. Angels

It makes life easier for a pitcher making his Major League debut when a bat as hot as Josh Hamilton's is backing him up.

Omar Beltre will take the hill for the Rangers on Wednesday against Scott Kazmir and the Angels in Anaheim, and Hamilton will look to extend his career-best 22-game hit streak.

For Beltre, the start will be the end of a long journey. The 26-year-old wasn't allowed to enter the country from 2005-09 after being caught in a human-trafficking ring in the Dominican Republic, but he got his visa this year in time for Spring Training.

After posting a 2.39 ERA in 15 outings (five starts) for Triple-A Oklahoma City, he got the callup and was penciled in as the starter after Colby Lewis' start was moved to Friday.

"It's been a special thing that's happened to me," Beltre said through a translator. "I worked really hard, and I'm happy it happened. When you work hard you get good results, and I've been working hard and this is the fruit of it."

Beltre's fastball is clocked around 93-94 mph, and he also throws a slider, changeup and splitter.

The series is pivotal in the American League West race, where the first-place Rangers lead the Angels by 3 1/2 games. It's clearly a good place to make up ground or widen a lead, but both teams know the season is still a long way from being over.

"Obviously, if you're at a different point in the season, you might look at it a little differently," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But this season isn't going to be won or lost on this series. It's the schedule bringing in another tough team that you have to contend against, and that's the way we're going to approach it. We know our challenges. We know they're a good team, and we know what our capabilities are.

Rangers: Hammerin' Hamilton
During his 22-game hit streak, Hamilton has gone 42-for-91 (.462) with nine home runs and 29 RBIs. He has hit a whopping .470 in June, raising his average to .343 overall. He attributes the recent success to a more relaxed approach at the plate and not trying to swing for the fences every time.

Angels: Not feeling at home
Scott Kazmir has lost his past three outings at Angel Stadium, and he hasn't posted a home win since April 25 against the Yankees. ... Mike Napoli tied the Brewers' Prince Fielder and the Orioles' Adam Jones for most Interleague home runs with seven.

Worth noting
Both clubs have had lots of success in their most recent nine series entering this one. In that stretch, the Angels won seven series, lost one and tied one, and the Rangers posted an 8-1 mark. ... Since April 28, Angels center fielder Torii Hunter has notched 46 RBIs, trailing only the Rangers' Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero in the AL. They have 50 each.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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