ST. PETERSBURG -- Rangers manager Ron Washington saw something different from Adrian Beltre during batting practice before Texas' 4-3 victory over the Rays that clinched the American League Division Series on Tuesday.
Washington said he saw a guy who was focused, locked in and due for a breakout game.
Beltre, who headed into Game 4 1-for-11 in the series after finishing the regular season with a hot bat, had never homered during the postseason.
That quickly changed for the third baseman as he became the sixth player in Major League history to collect three homers in one postseason game. The Angels' Adam Kennedy was the last to do it, during Game 5 of the 2002 American League Championship Series against Minnesota.
Beltre joins an elite group that also includes George Brett, Reggie Jackson, Bob Robertson and Babe Ruth, who accomplished the feat twice.
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It was the first time a player blasted three homers in a single game in a Division Series.
"I think besides my first hit in the big leagues, this is right up there, just because my team needed every bit of it to win the game tonight," Beltre said. "And that means something."
His first two roundtrippers came off Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, a rookie who had allowed two long balls in the same game just twice on the year. In the second inning, Beltre connected on a 1-0 pitch that sent a leadoff drive over the left-field wall. For his second homer, the right-handed-hitting slugger lined a ball to the opposite field on 2-1 pitch with one out in the fourth.
Another rookie, Matt Moore, surrendered a first-pitch leadoff homer to Beltre in the sixth inning, which also snapped a stretch of nine consecutive scoreless innings pitched against the Rangers for Moore.
Players with three homers in a postseason game
Adrian Beltre became the sixth player to hit three homers in a postseason game, the seventh time it has happened in MLB history.
"It's incredible what he did," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "When a guy hits two home runs, we always say it's easier to hit two home runs in a game, [because] not very many can do three, and he just went right up there and smashed that first pitch."
Over his last 20 games, including the regular season, Beltre has hit 15 homers and driven in 26 runs.
"Amazing," Washington said. "You know, we've been waiting for the middle of our lineup to get started, and today he stepped up and put us on his back and hit three home runs against pretty good pitching. And that's not easy to do. And he did it. And he's been big for us all year. And today he was bigger than big; he was huge."
The 32-year-old missed 37 games in his first season with Texas with a hamstring injury after signing a six-year, $96 million contract over the offseason. Last year, he was an All-Star for the Red Sox.
Despite sitting out that many games, Beltre still ranked among the AL leaders in slugging percentage (third, .561), home runs (tied for fifth, 32) and RBIs (tied for sixth, 105) during the regular season. He also recorded his 2,000th career hit and 300th homer, one of just 13 active players to accomplish both.
Until Tuesday's affair, Beltre had gone seven straight postseason games without an extra-base hit. As a member of the Dodgers in the 2004 National League Division Series -- the last time he played ball in October -- Beltre went 4-for-15 (.267) with an RBI.
"It's just one of those days when you feel good and you can't do wrong that day," Beltre said.
Christina De Nicola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.