Small ball leads to long ball in big inning
August, 16, 2011
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It was one productive inning that demonstrated how the Rangers can score in a variety of different ways. And when small ball meets long ball, the results can be devastating for the opponent.
That's what happened in the fifth inning in Monday's 8-4 win over the Angels. Texas led 2-1 as the inning began with Mitch Moreland's single. Ian Kinsler, who had four hits on the night, also singled to put runners at first and second with no outs. In a one-run game with Alexi Ogando on the mound, the Rangers asked Elvis Andrus to bunt the runners over. It was the second time he'd been asked to bunt Monday, after converting a sac in the third.
Andrus bunted down the third-base line and pitcher Hisanori Takahashi tried to get Moreland at third base. His throw was off-line, allowing Moreland to come home and putting Kinsler at third and Andrus at second with the heart of the lineup coming up.
"I had Elvis right there and he had already bunted earlier in the game," manager Ron Washington said. "It's about execution. We wanted to get runners in scoring position for [Josh] Hamilton and the guys that followed."
After Hamilton struck out, Michael Young did what he normally does: had a big clutch hit. He hit a 2-2 fastball into center field to score Kinsler and Andrus, giving the Rangers a 5-1 lead. But they weren't done in the inning yet.
Nelson Cruz bashed a two-run homer and Mike Napoli, the former Angel, followed with a solo shot to deep center field. The long balls made it 8-1 and the Rangers ended up earning the victory thanks in large part to that six-run fifth inning.
"If you watch us on a consistent basis, you know that we're capable of playing any type of baseball," Kinsler said. "Whatever the game asks of us, is how Wash puts it, we're able to do it. Tonight we showed all aspects of the game. That's what we really pride ourselves on as an offense. We can take a bunch of pitches or swing at the first pitch. Whatever it takes, we're going to try to do it."
The Rangers' ability to get on base and then execute by moving runners over and running the bases aggressively puts pressure on the opponent. Andrus' bunt put pressure on Takahashi, forcing him into a hurried throw that allowed a run to score. Then, when the opportunity is there, this team has the big bats that can go deep and score runs with pure power.
It's a versatile offense that is helping the Rangers build a lead in the AL West. Monday's victory puts them five games up on the Angels. Texas, which has won nine of the last 11 games, has now gained four games in eight days. It puts the Rangers in position to create a nice cushion if they can keep the momentum going and win this four-game series.