Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Unsung hero: The accidental cleanup hitter
By Jeff Caplan
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Michael Young is not your prototypical cleanup hitter. But he doesn't really care and neither does his manager Ron Washington, who just refuses to move him out of the four-spot.
"I think the mark of a good manager is putting your players in spots where they can have success and Wash does that consistently with us," Young said following Monday's 4-2 victory in Game 5 to move one win away from a World Series championship. "His biggest goal is to make sure the lineup he puts out there is one that he feels is going to have a chance to win a ballgame."
Chalk up another one for Wash and Young.
The designated hitter, not unlike much of this postseason, was not having a good night at the plate -- 0-for-3 and 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position. But leave it to the old pro to start things off the in the pivotal eighth inning with a 2-2 tie.
Young led off by crushing Octavio Dotel's second pitch to the gap in right-center for a stand-up double.
"It was excitement," Ian Kinsler said of the dugout mood after Young's hit. "We had a guy in scoring position with nobody out and that's a great way to start an inning. You feel like you can score that run most of the time."
After Adrian Beltre struck out and Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa swapped Dotel for the lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski to face David Murphy, who lined a shot back to the box and reached to load the bases for Mike Napoli.
Napoli crushed a double to the gap in right center, two runs scored, the crowd went crazy and the Rangers had another comeback win.
Young is hitting just .211 in the World Series and .210 overall in the postseason. Yet three of his four hits against the Cardinals are for extra bases. He drove in the winning run in Game 2 and got the winning inning started in Game 5.
Young never asked to hit cleanup, and his manager won't put him anywhere else.
"There's really nothing else to say about the guy," Kinsler said. "He's done it all and continues to come up in huge spots and gets huge hits, and I wouldn't be surprised if he does it again."