Rangers-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

The Texas Rangers concluded the opening month of the season with the best record in baseball despite being without their biggest contributor.

If Josh Hamilton remains out for any length of time, Adrian Beltre will be counted on to continue picking up the slack.

With Hamilton's return uncertain, Beltre will try to help the Rangers maintain their road dominance Tuesday night when they face the Toronto Blue Jays.

Texas (17-6) opened this three-game series in Toronto (12-11) with a 4-1 victory Monday behind another gem from Yu Darvish. The Rangers matched the 1989 team for the second-most victories in the season's opening month. They won a record 18 April games in 1998.

Hamilton was held out of the lineup with a sore back and there's no timetable for his return. He ranks among the major league leaders with a .395 average, nine homers and 25 RBIs.

Beltre did his part to fill the void left by Hamilton on Monday, collecting three hits with two doubles as Texas won for the ninth time in 10 road games this season. He's 9 for 22 with two homers and six RBIs in his last five contests.

Usually a third baseman, Beltre may find himself in the DH role again, as manager Ron Washington wants to limit his time on the artificial turf at Rogers Centre.

"We're trying to protect his legs," Washington told the team's official website. "It will also give Michael (Young) a chance to get some games on the field and not make Beltre have to go out there and stand on the turf for a long period of time."

Young is batting .448 in his past seven meetings with the Blue Jays,

The Rangers will give the ball to former closer Neftali Feliz (1-1, 3.00), who is making his first start since being charged with a 3-2 loss at Detroit on April 21. The right-hander yielded three runs and three hits with four walks, one hit batter and six strikeouts in eight innings for his first complete game.

Feliz's latest appearance came in a more familiar role, as he tossed an inning of relief while surrendering a solo homer in a 7-3 win over New York on Wednesday. It was the first time he came out of the bullpen since blowing a save in Game 6 of last year's World Series.

Feliz has no record, one save and a 1.69 ERA in five relief appearances against the Blue Jays.

Edwin Encarnacion continues to swing a hot bat for Toronto, connecting for a home run in his fourth consecutive game Monday to match the longest streak of his career set at the end of 2010. He's 7 for 12 with eight RBIs during that four-game span.

The Blue Jays haven't had a longer streak since Jose Cruz Jr.'s club-record six-game run from Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2001.

Toronto sends Drew Hutchison (1-0, 6.10) to the mound for his third major league start and first at Rogers Centre.

The right-hander was better in his second start than his first, allowing two runs and six hits over five-plus innings before leaving without a decision in a 5-2 loss at Baltimore on Thursday.

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