What's up with Elvis Andrus bunting so much?
Josh Hamilton's walk-off homer will dominate the highlights and discussion of the Rangers' 13th-inning rally, but Andrus' RBI double to the left-center gap put Hamilton in position to beat the Blue Jays.
"The more that I play, the more I feel able to do like I did in that last inning, to hit that ball in the gap," said Andrus, who is hitting a career-high .302 and is on pace to roar past his previous best RBI total with 22 in the season's first 47 games.
Andrus didn't get a chance to drive the ball in his previous two at-bats. He followed orders to lay down sacrifice bunts after Ian Kinsler reached base to lead off the ninth and 11th innings.
"That was a lot, a lot, a lot of bunting," said Andrus, who also bunted in the first inning. "I kind of wonder if that was a record for sacrifices. But, you know, that's my job. Whenever they ask me for it, I'll be there to help my team."
Andrus' success swinging the bat isn't the only reason that asking him to bunt so often is an interesting strategy by manager Ron Washington. The Rangers are essentially extending an invitation for opponents to intentionally walk Josh Hamilton, the clear MVP frontrunner at this point of the season, by moving the runner to second base and leaving first open.
Toronto accepted that invitation in the ninth inning, walking Hamilton and getting out of the inning unscathed after an Adrian Beltre flyout and Michael Young groundout. The Blue Jays opted to let lefty Darren Oliver pitch to Hamilton in the 11th and lived to tell about it, as he grounded out to first base after Kinsler advanced to third on a wild pitch, failing to drive in what would have been the game-winning run with one out.
The Blue Jays pitched to Hamilton again after Andrus' double in the 13th, but the circumstances were much different in that situation. He represented the winning run with no outs .. and ended up scoring it with a walk-off homer.
Washington is well aware that opponents will often opt to walk Hamilton if Andrus lays down a sacrifice bunt. Washington just doesn't care, expressing confidence that Beltre and Young can make teams pay for pitching to them.
"I'm not worried about them putting Hamilton on the bag," Washington said. "I've got Beltre and Michael Young coming. They're quality hitters. They drive in runs and drive in big runs, so if they want to walk Hamilton, go ahead.
"If you look at the at-bats Hamilton had earlier in the game, they certainly weren't productive, so I wasn't worried about them walking Hamilton. I did what I had to do to get other guys up there and get a run closer to home plate."
But Andrus swinging away worked much better than bunting.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.