Atypical No. 3 hitter Ian Kinsler steals a win
SEATTLE -- Ian Kinsler isn’t a typical No. 3 hitter.
Sure, he’s third on the potent Texas Rangers in RBIs. But the second baseman is at times more like a leadoff man.
Times such as Tuesday night when a run is needed to beat Seattle.
After Elvis Andrus was called out of the baseline running to first leading off the 10th inning on a squibber -- Mariners pitcher Danny Farquhar’s throw to first hit Andrus in the back -- Kinsler delivered his fourth single of the night. He took second on Adrian Beltre’s single.
On the ensuing pitch to A.J. Pierzynski, Kinsler noticed Farquhar used a high leg kick that slowed his delivery.
“I anticipated it on the second pitch,” Kinsler said, sounding more like a modern-day Lou Brock than a Lou Gehrig. “And he gave it. So I’m gone.”
Gone to third base with as easy a stolen base as he’s had. This No. 3 hitter is a perfect 10-for-10 in steals this season, by the way.
The latest one put Kinsler in position to trot home when plate umpire CB Bucknor, the man who had angered Rangers manager Ron Washington for the call on Andrus moments earlier, called Farquhar for a balk. The closer flinched his shoulder while on the pitching rubber without fully starting his delivery.
“He was looking in for his sign, and he started up, and stopped, and moved his left shoulder,” Bucknor told a pool reporter after the game. “Any movement associated with his set position -- he doesn’t come and stop -- is a balk.”
That’s how Kinsler manufactured a win that keeps Texas 2½ games ahead of the Oakland Athletics in the American League West.
“It was huge,” Washington said of Kinsler’s heads-up swipe that preceded the balk. “He’s a smart baserunner. He got the opportunity and he took advantage.”
Reminded a baserunner has to be absolutely sure to steal third with one out in extra innings, Washington flashed a wry smile.
“He was,” he said. “And he made it. Kinsler was paying attention.”
On Monday, Kinsler made another play few if any No. 3 hitters would make: He bunted with two on, nobody out and one of baseball’s hottest hitters, Beltre, up next. He wasn’t trying to necessarily sacrifice -- though that’s what happened when his bunt didn’t get far enough up the third-base line and the catcher made the play. Kinsler had noticed Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager was playing back. He was trying for the bunt single and to stay out of the double play so the Mariners would have to pitch to Beltre with the bases loaded.
Think Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano or any other No. 3 hitter in the AL thinks like that often?
“He’s going to play his game,” Washington said. “If Kinsler sees a bunt available, he’ll take it. That’s part of the game; bunting is part of the game.”
It was actually the second time in a week Kinsler had tried bunting with men on and Beltre up next. He did it last week at home in Arlington against the Houston Astros -- and it was part of an 11-run inning.
So the last two times Kinsler has bunted with two on, nobody out and Beltre due up, Texas has scored 13 runs.
Kinsler’s game also included a dugout talk Tuesday that starting pitcher Derek Holland credited with reversing his early-game struggles. Holland took Kinsler’s words after Seattle had tied the game at 3 after three innings -- words the pitcher kept between himself and his second baseman -- and lasted through the sixth. That kept the Rangers in the game long enough to win it.
Because of Kinsler.
His “game,” as his manager calls it, allowed Texas to maintain their division lead at the margin it’s been at for four days now.
“That’s part of his game,” Washington said, even before his late-night craftiness Tuesday. “I’m not going to take his game away from him.”
Scheppers rebounds: Tanner Scheppers arrived in Seattle after having allowed six hits and three runs in 1S innings over his previous two games. His ERA was 7.71 over his last five outings, including a walk-off loss Saturday in Chicago.
Washington made a point on Monday to get Scheppers an inning to finish an 8-3 win over the Mariners.
That seemingly mundane gesture might prove to be huge down the stretch.
The manager said after Monday’s game how Scheppers had a good breaking ball and that if he could consistently throw those for strikes his fastball would be better.
It couldn’t any better than it was Tuesday.
Washington brought in the right-hander after the first two Mariners reached off Neal Cotts in the bottom of the ninth. Scheppers immediately tied up right-handed Humberto Quintero with a 97 mph fastball, forcing Quintero to pop up his sacrifice bunt attempt into the glove of first baseman Mitch Moreland. He then blew away pinch hitter Nick Franklin and fellow rookie Brad Miller with 96 mph heat to get the game to the 10th.
“My job is go out and minimize damage,” Scheppers said, calling Tuesday a return to “business as usual” for him.
“Luckily the team has confidence to keep sending me out there.”
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