Commentary

Rangers mix it up, make it happen

Offense's versatility manufactures rally over Cardinals, puts Texas in driver's seat

Updated: October 21, 2011, 3:01 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ST. LOUIS -- No way the old station-to-station Texas Rangers would have won Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night at Busch Stadium.

All those teams could do was bash. And mash.

[+] EnlargeIan Kinsler
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonIan Kinsler took advantage of closer Jason Motte's slow delivery to swipe second in the ninth and put the Rangers in position to tie.
Ron Washington's Rangers are so much more versatile on offense -- and it's the reason they manufactured a pair of ninth-inning runs to slip past the St. Louis Cardinals and genius manager Tony La Russa, 2-1.

The Rangers tied the series at 1-1 with speed. And guile. And aggressiveness.

The Rangers? Uh huh.

"We won this game because we made some [expletive] happen," Washington said in the visiting manager's office after the game.

"It was the way we talked about playing the game, when I got here. We didn't do anything special tonight. That's just the way we play."

In the 18 innings played in St. Louis, the Rangers didn't take their first lead of the series until the top of the ninth Thursday.

Still, they became just the third team in World Series history to rally from a 1-0 deficit in the ninth inning and win. The Kansas City Royals did it in 1985, and the Philadelphia Athletics did it in 1911.

Now the Rangers are in control of the series because it's heading to Rangers Ballpark for three games, where more than 51,000 towel-waving fans eager to forget about the Dallas Cowboys' mediocrity will be waiting to inspire them.

More importantly, the Rangers' lethal lineup should become an offensive juggernaut in its home ballpark.

The Rangers led the big leagues in hitting (.296), home runs (126), OPS (.860) and runs (6.1 per game) in their home ballpark. On the road, they hit .269 and scored 4.4 runs per game.

This is why they can't wait to return to Texas, where the temperature is supposed to be warm this weekend and their bevy of power hitters can take advantage of the jet stream to right-center field.

And they'll be able to use Alexi Ogando for two innings, if they want, because Washington won't have to pinch hit for him because his spot in the batting order comes up.

After the first two games, you have to expect this to be a long series because the clubs seem so close. It's going to be a battle of the bullpens each night, but the Rangers' offensive versatility gives them an edge.

See, this team ranked among the top five in the major leagues in stolen bases (143); bases taken on fly balls, passed balls, wild pitches and balks (157); and going from first to third or home on singles (119).

Despite all that running, the Rangers tied for fifth in fewest outs (46).

It began Thursday with Ian Kinsler's bloop single to center to open the ninth. Then the Rangers played Washington's style of baseball to perfection.

When Elvis Andrus couldn't initially move him over with a bunt, Kinsler stole second against the big league's best throwing catcher: Yadier Molina.

Jason Motte throws in the upper 90s, but it takes him between 1.3 and 1.4 seconds to get the ball to the plate. The Rangers challenge any pitcher that slow to the plate.

Plus, Motte was so focused on getting Andrus out that Kinsler stretched his lead. Motte attempted just one pickoff throw.

"You always steal on the pitcher," said Rangers first-base coach Gary Pettis, who doubles as the baserunning coach. "Ian was waiting for the right opportunity. He saw something in his favor and he stole the base. It was the biggest steal of the season."

Andrus singled to center, moving Kinsler to third. Albert Pujols, the cutoff man, mishandled Jon Jay's throw, and Andrus slid into second.

"As soon as I saw the ball bounce off his glove and go another direction, I just kept running," Andrus said. "You have to be alert. You never know when you're going to get a chance. You have to stay focused."

Josh Hamilton followed with a sacrifice fly to right that scored Kinsler and moved Andrus to third base. Michael Young's sacrifice fly scored Andrus.

Two baserunners score without the benefit of a hit.

"We've been playing this way since Wash showed up. That's our style," Kinsler said. "We've got a lot of athletes, and we put a lot of pressure on the defense."

On Thursday night, it helped the Rangers win the biggest game in franchise history.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES