Thursday, October 28, 2010
Elvis Andrus quite the leading man
By Jeff Caplan
SAN FRANCISCO -- Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus is working the lead-off spot to near-perfection. In 12 postseason games, he's singled to start a game five times, doubled once and walked once. He's come around to score five times.
He had a string of four consecutive games -- from Game 4 of the ALDS through Game 2 of the ALCS -- in which he led off by getting on base. If he gets on in his first at-bat in tonight's Game 2 of the World Series, he'll have posted another four-game streak.
If he gets on with a base hit -- or gets a hit at any point in tonight's crucial game -- Andrus will run his postseason hit streak to 13 games, tying Greg Luzinski for the second-longest streak to start a postseason career. Marquis Grissom holds the record at 15.
Andrus finished the regular season hitting .265, an average driven down by an awful September in which he hit .160 with just 12 hits in 75 at-bats. Hitting coach Clint Hurdle thinks the slump served as a wake-up call. Andrus is hitting .333 in the postseason.
"I think there comes a time for players when the disappointment finally gets their attention and the realization that I might get on a stage here and get exposed and embarrassed," Hurdle said. "It can be a little bit more of a wake-up call. With two weeks to go or 10 days to go, you've clinched your division [and say], 'Let me just figure my way through some at-bats.' I definitely think his attention was sparked, knowing what the next step was going to be and what was at stake."
Andrus has reached base safely the the first inning in seven of the last nine games. He's worked counts and has also been aggressive.
"At the top of his to-do list is to throw a good at-bat out there to start the game," Hurdle said. "And what I've really been impressed with, it's not about seeing four or five pitches before he fires out his first swing. There's been a couple at-bats where the third pitch, 1-1 count, he's going to line a single to center field."
That's exactly what he did in Game 1 against San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum. Andrus took a 92-mph fastball for strike one and then another 92-mph fastball for a ball. He then lined Lincecum's next pitch, an 86-mph slider, into left field. He came around to score to give Texas another first-inning lead.
"He's in a very confident spot right now," Hurdle said. "There's no fear of failure. There's no thinking about, 'Oh, I'm worried if I'm going to get on base or not.' It's more or less, 'How am I going to get on base.'"