Over a long and successful career, Carlos Beltrán has won three Gold Glove Awards in center field and racked up more than 300 stolen bases. But at 39 years old, the nine-time All-Star is much better known for his bat these days than his defense or baserunning.
That changed, at least briefly, in the sixth inning of what became a 6-4 Rangers win over the Brewers at Globe Life Park on Tuesday night.
When Orlando Arcia started the top of the frame with a line drive to right field off Tony Barnette, it appeared Milwaukee might put its leadoff man aboard as it tried to extend a 4-3 lead. Arcia connected with an exit velocity of 95.9 mph and a launch angle of 15 degrees, according to Statcast™, traits that have led to a .612 batting average this season.
While Beltran has long since moved from center to right and is no longer lauded for his range, he gave himself a chance to make a play on Arcia's liner by taking his first step in only 0.07 seconds. That turned out to be his fourth-quickest jump of the season on a putout.
Beltran then sprinted toward the right-field line at a top speed of 17.4 mph, with a solid route efficiency of 97.6 percent. The veteran closed on the low liner, which appeared to be slicing away from him, and laid out for a full-extension diving grab, skidding across the outfield grass and hanging on to the ball. Statcast™ shows that the 53 feet Beltran covered on the play were his most this season to make a catch on a ball with a hang time of 3.5 seconds or less.
Thanks in part to that play, the Brewers didn't add to their lead before Beltran came to bat against right-hander Jimmy Nelson to begin the bottom of the sixth.
After reaching on an infield single, Beltran stood at first base, but if the Brewers weren't paying him much mind, it was understandable. Beltran, who twice topped 40 stolen bases in a season (2003-04), had not swiped a bag since Aug. 11, 2014 -- and that was as part of a double steal. He hadn't attempted a single one in the past two years.
On this occasion, however, Beltran broke for second on a 2-1 pitch to Adrián Beltré. He picked his spot well. Although Nelson's 1.17-second release time -- from his first move to the ball leaving his hand -- wasn't far off the average for MLB righties with a runner on first (1.11), his pitch sailed up and in on Beltre, making the task difficult for catcher Manny Piña.
Pina's 1.99-second pop time and 81.1-mph throw both were solid, but he had no chance. Beltran got out to a 24-foot secondary lead, compared with the Rangers' average of 22 feet on steals of second. He then ramped up to 20.1 mph, his second-fastest top speed of the season on the bases, and beat the throw easily.
"He's amazing," teammate Elvis Andrus said of Beltran. "He's rejuvenating everybody. Today, the old guys brought the energy."
Beltre drew a walk, and one out later, both veterans scored on a Jonathan Lucroy double, putting the Rangers in the lead. An inning later, Beltran legged out a double to left field that pushed Ian Desmond to third, putting him in position to score on Beltre's groundout.
With that insurance run in hand, Texas went on to win and now sits percentage points ahead of Boston for the top playoff seed in the American League.