Thursday, October 20, 2011
Defensive difference: Elvis Andrus sparkles
By Jeff Caplan
ST. LOUIS -- Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus was told that his brilliant diving stop and flip with his glove to second base to end a critical St. Louis rally in the fifth inning probably reminded the Busch Stadium crowd of Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith.
Andrus smiled and said, "I'll take Omar." As in Vizquel, a fellow Venezuelan, former teammate and the kid's idol.
Elvis Andrus' glovework with two Cardinals on in the fifth kept the game scoreless.
Whichever legend he prefers, the tremendous play, when viewed after the Rangers' ninth-inning comeback for a 2-1 win to gain a split of the first two games of the World Series, stands out as the difference. For only the second time in the game, the Cardinals had a runner on second because Colby Lewis, in the midst of his own mesmerizing start, somehow walked Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia to bring up leadoff man Rafael Furcal.
Furcal got such a good lick on Lewis' curveball back up the middle that the crowd instantly roared anticipating a base hit that would end a scoreless stalemate. The roar quickly turned into "Ooooohs," as Andrus made the stop and shoveled the ball with his glove to Ian Kinsler to force Garcia at second and end the inning.
"He saved us right there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He kept runs off the board, and that's exactly the type of play he's capable of doing."
Lewis, who had given up just two hits to that point, typically doesn't show much emotion on the field, but he said he couldn't help celebrate the defensive gem.
"It was just outstanding," Lewis said. "I'm a pretty even-keeled guy and I gave it a fist-pump and was pretty excited for it. It definitely saved a run. Luckily, the pitcher wasn't running there, otherwise it probably would have been a lot closer."
If that play serves as the highlight of the game, what do you do with Andrus' excellent stop-and-flip to Kinsler in the fourth inning to start a 6-4-3 double play? Kinsler botched a grounder with one out but made up for it when he snared Andrus' toss with his bare hand and launched a perfect throw to first to end the fourth inning.
Is it possible to rate one better than the other?
"I think the second one was pretty good," Andrus said. "I threw it from my glove and it was right on the bag."
Just call it 2-for-2 in the hole and one monumental swing of momentum.