Sunday, July 17, 2011
Ian Kinsler blasts his way to road success
By Richard Durrett
SEATTLE -- When Ian Kinsler rejoined his teammates in Minnesota in mid-June following the birth of his second child, his first order of business was getting to know the club's new hitting coach.
Scott Coolbaugh, who took over for Thad Bosley right before that road trip through Minnesota, New York and Atlanta, studied the club's early-season numbers and made helping Kinsler get his swing going on the road one of his top priorities. He never talked with the second baseman about it specifically, but added "he knew the numbers and so did I." Kinsler was batting .123 with one homer and 10 RBIs in 28 road games to that point.
"He's a catalyst for our offense and as he goes, we go," Coolbaugh said. "I knew he was struggling. Sometimes you get out of your routine on the road and don't realize it. Maybe it helped that we were in the cages a lot on that trip working on getting to know each other and getting in a better hitting position."
Kinsler sure thinks so. The leadoff hitter, at DH on Saturday, belted two homers off Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, helping the Rangers to a 5-1 victory, their 10th consecutive win. Kinsler was only the third player to hit two homers off Hernandez in the same game. One of the others is Brian Anderson, one of Kinsler's good friends from Tucson, Ariz.
"That has something to do with it," Kinsler said about hitting better under Coolbaugh. "I think it has something to do with our offensive streak as a whole. We're just playing a lot better. We're having quality at-bats and grinding on the other pitcher. If we do that, we're going to be tough to beat. Scott definitely has something to do with that."
Kinsler leads the way. He hit Hernandez's third fastball into the visiting bullpen in left in the first inning and immediately gave the Rangers some momentum. By the time the game ended, the Rangers jumped out of the visiting dugout and celebrated, knowing they'd beaten a tough pitcher on the road.
"Anytime you going up against Felix and you beat him, you're going to have a reaction like that," Kinsler said. "That just shows you how good he is. He's a guy you have to consistently battle against. You've got to be consistent as an offense all the way up and down. You know that at the start of the game and he knows that and tonight we were able to push a couple of runs across and get him."
Kinsler's power surge is just the latest in a good run on the road for the second baseman. Since that trip to Minnesota and the arrival of Coolbaugh, Kinsler is batting .316 with six homers and nine RBIs in 14 road games. He has two multi-homer games in that span. So what's been the difference for Kinsler?
"Same answer I had when I was struggling: I have no idea," Kinsler said. "It's baseball, man. Sometimes weird things happen. Every year statistics are different. There's always something you can pull out that's going to be different from the year before. It was a weird deal at the beginning of the season, but hopefully I can keep it going."
Coolbaugh sees a confident hitter who is sticking with his approach and making things happen in a variety of ways.
"I think he's in a better place mentally right now," Coolbaugh said. "He feels good about being in a better hitting position to allow him to do what he's capable of doing. That's just carried over. Obviously, he's a huge part of the offense. When we go, he goes. He's worked hard and it's paying off."
Kinsler now has a 12-game hitting streak and is batting .360 (18-for-50) with 12 runs scored, six doubles, four homers, four RBIs and four stolen bases during that span. It's the second-longest active streak in the majors behind Dustin Pedroia's 14-gamer.