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Ian Kinsler is straw that stirs the Rangers

6/26/2013

The straw that stirs the drink.

That's the phrase that manager Ron Washington has used repeatedly in the past week when asked about Ian Kinsler's return to the Rangers' lineup after missing 25 games with a rib cage injury.

Does the phrase fit? After all, it was once reserved for Reggie Jackson and also used on a Sports Illustrated cover for Darryl Strawberry.

Make no mistake: This is strictly about Kinsler and what he means to the Rangers, their lineup, their team chemistry, etc.

So Washington's portrayal of Kinsler is absolutely accurate.

All it took was the eyeball test to see something was lacking when Kinsler was out. The Rangers' energy was depleted, and it was especially noticeable during a six-game losing streak.

Don't forget this was a losing skid that played out in front of the fans in Arlington, the majority of whom wanted Kinsler moved to the outfield or to another team to make room for phenom Jurickson Profar.

In a way, it was a good thing to have things happen like this. It provided a reminder of exactly what Kinsler means to the Rangers. And to stop the madness of pushing aside an All-Star for a 20-year-old prospect.

The impact of Kinsler's return wasn't immediate -- the Rangers did lose two more games to Toronto with him back. But during last week's 6-1 stretch against Oakland and St. Louis, one that changed the momentum of the season, Kinsler had a major impact.

He had two game-winning hits in the late innings -- one against Oakland on Thursday and another against the Cardinals on Sunday.

Kinsler is 10-for-30 over the past eight games with six RBIs and six runs scored. He's drawn three walks. He's played good defense. As Wash would say, he's been Kinsler.

The Rangers were 11-14 with Kinsler out of the lineup. Read what you want into that. They were 5-10 without first baseman Mitch Moreland. The bottom line is the offense slumped without two key bats in the lineup.

But there's no questioning that the Rangers missed Kinsler and need him now more than ever.

He sets the tone on the field. He's an energy player and always has been. He can give you a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a home run or a hit and a stolen base.

He plays with his pants on fire. Sometimes that works against him and he'll make two errors on the same play as he did earlier this season. Most of the time, however, it's a positive.

He helps set the tone in the clubhouse, too, on a team full of leaders. He brings attitude. On the field. Around his teammates. Even with the media.

Kinsler annoyed the A's last week when he flipped his bat and held out his arms like he was a jet going around first base after his go-ahead hit. Hey, nothing wrong with fueling a rivalry.

Wash was right. Kinsler stirs it up. Every great team needs a guy like that.