After missing out early, Beltran delivers in clutch

After missing out early, Beltran delivers in clutch

NEW YORK -- Before the pandemonium ensued -- before fans screamed for Alex Rodriguez, then booed a Marlins pitcher in his honor, before the Yankees went on a four-run barrage in the eighth inning against Miami on Thursday night -- there was a tied ballgame at Yankee Stadium.

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Before reporters huddled around Rodriguez's locker to ask him about closing in on 3,000 hits, they swarmed Carlos Beltran's to ask him about that tie he broke open with his game-winning, two-run homer in the Yankees' 9-4 win over the Marlins.

Before Beltran acknowledged his success, he first took a second to reflect on his shortcomings earlier in the game -- striking out with the bases loaded in the first inning, popping out with two men on in the fifth.

"I mean, of course it feels good," Beltran said. "[But] before that, I had a few opportunities to try to get a run in and I didn't do it. So you're just trying to put a good at-bat [together]."

Such has been the script of Beltran's season -- struggling early, yet searching for a way to climb out of the hole and produce later.

Through the first 14 games of the season, Beltran hit .173 before working his way up to his current .250 average. Through his first three at-bats Thursday, he struck out with the bases loaded, walked and flew out with runners on second and third, before hitting the homer in the seventh inning.

"I just think it's got to change, that sort of thing with Carlos," manager Joe Girardi said of Beltran's early struggles this season. "He's still too good of a hitter not to have success, and since about May 15, he's swung the bat much better for us -- and that's a huge hit tonight. He had the big hit [Wednesday] night, too."

Girardi also credited Brett Gardner, who scored the tying run, with a two-run homer of his own in the sixth inning to catalyze the offense.

"Obviously we were losing, 3-1, kind of late in the game and offensively, we haven't really done anything [in the] first half of this game in the last couple days," Gardner said. "It was nice to kind of come out of that funk."

But for Beltran, his personal funk isn't something he's consumed by.

"I don't focus on the negative, man," he said. "Baseball is a game of emotions. I try to focus on the positive."

And on Thursday night, he found just that.

Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.