Michael Young saves best for last
Face of Rangers ignored talk of slump and came through when it mattered most
ARLINGTON -- The endless stream of questions directed toward Ron Washington about dropping Michael Young from the cleanup spot in the batting order have ceased.
So have the queries about Young's lackluster postseason batting average and production -- and they aren't returning anytime soon.
Not after Young showed us, once again, that he's the franchise's best pure hitter, which is saying quite a bit considering the Texas Rangers have employed Julio Franco, Juan Gonzalez and steroid-using Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez.
Young saved his finest moment of what had been a dreary postseason for when the Rangers needed it most.
He delivered a pair of two-run doubles in the pivotal third inning and added a homer in the seventh inning Saturday to lead the Rangers -- as he should as the face of the franchise -- into the World Series with a 15-5 butt-kicking of the Detroit Tigers to win the series 4-2.
"He's the spirit of this club," Washington said of Young. "I know earlier in the playoffs he wasn't producing, but he showed the quality professional and the quality person that he is.
"He came through when we needed him most. It seemed as though he saved his best for last. As far as I'm concerned tonight, he put us on his back."
After Young's three-hit, two-run, five-RBI performance in Game 6, it's probably hard for most folks to remember he's been abject much of the postseason.
Then consider this: Young's dramatic performance raised his ALCS average to .214.
Then again, in Young's first seven games of the playoffs he totaled just three hits for a minuscule .111 batting average. After Young went 0-for-4 in a 5-2 loss in Game 3, Washington endured question after question about dropping the unproductive star in the batting order.
Washington refused, saying it would be a panic move.
"Wash believes in me," said Young, "and I believe in him."
Young answered an equal number of questions about his slump. Although the easiest way to receive a stern look from Young is to mention the word slump.
He doesn't believe in them.
Young thinks the next at-bat has nothing to do with his previous at-bat. Or the next at-bat.
Each trip to the plate is an experience unto itself.
No more, no less.
More Texas Rangers coverage
For more news, notes and analysis of the Rangers, check out ESPN Dallas' Rangers Report. Blog
It's kind of hard to argue with a dude who has six career 200-hit seasons -- he had 213 hits this season -- and owns the franchise record for hits. Don't forget, Young hit .338 this season, tying for second in the AL.
Besides, Young's hot streak had been slowly building with three hits and two RBIs in the previous two games.
"I just got some results," Young said of his Game 6 performance. "I believe in my approach to hitting. I'm scratching and clawing up there, trying to make sure I have good at-bats."
The Rangers were still in the third inning, though the lead had already swelled to 7-2, when Young batted again after Jim Leyland intentionally walked Hamilton to load the bases with two out.
Young, swinging at the first pitch again, hit a fastball down the right field line, scoring Ian Kinsler and Andrus as the Rangers took a 9-2 lead.
As the crowd erupted and Leyland made his way to the mound for his third pitching change of the inning, Young stood on second base with a raised fist.
End of series.
For good measure, Young homered onto Green's Hill in the seventh. And it seemed fitting that he recorded the game's final out on a flare in right field just beyond the infield dirt.
As he snagged the ball, Young thrust his index finger into the air and sprinted to the infield between the mound and second base, where he leaped into the waiting arms of Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Esteban German.
It was time to celebrate.
Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.