Lost in Monday night's ninth-inning home run hoopla -- when A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto homered to give Texas a much-needed 4-3 win against the Angels -- were the two runs driven in by Ian Kinsler.
The Rangers have been longing for a productive bat in the middle of the lineup ever since Lance Berkman stopped hitting two months before going on the disabled list. On Monday, manager Ron Washington moved Kinsler from the leadoff spot to the three-hole.
It was long overdue.
The Rangers' offense has been abysmal in the second half, leading to discussions about possibly trading for White Sox outfielder Alex Rios, former Ranger first baseman Michael Young or another run-producing bat. There is a desperate need to find someone capable of delivering big hits with runners on base. But instead of looking outside the organization, the Rangers merely needed to look to the top of their lineup.
After a sixth-inning RBI single and a sacrifice fly in the eighth last night, Kinsler is hitting .364 with runners in scoring position this season. Forget tops on the team, that's good for third in the American League.
Ron Washington, like most managers, isn't a fan of change, and he was reluctant to move his second baseman down in the lineup because the Rangers struggled mightily without Kinsler to set the table when he was on the disabled list in June. Seeing your offense get shut out in three of four games changes the equation though, and Washington pulled the trigger.
Kinsler's RBI double helped close the gap against the Angels, but perhaps his sacrifice fly was more indicative of why such a switch was necessary. Not hitting is one thing, but the Rangers hadn't even been making productive outs. Washington often says "take what the game gives you," and Nelson Cruz striking out with runners in scoring position had become an all too familiar scene. Kinsler strikes out in less than 10 percent of his at-bats, and his sac fly to drive in Elvis Andrus from third in the eighth inning last night may have resulted in an out, but it also resulted in a run.
Kinsler is third on the team in RBIs with 44, producing more runs from the leadoff spot than Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland have in the middle of the lineup. The Rangers had gone 26 innings without scoring before Kinsler's RBI double Monday night. It was past time to make this move.
If the Rangers start to surge and ride the momentum of the walk-off, many will circle last night's win as the turning point in the march towards October. And they should, but not for the reason everyone is talking about. As energizing as a walk-off is, momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. A lineup change that jumpstarts a flailing offense? That can carry a team to the postseason.