Mark Townsend

Antlers turn to goat horns as Rangers' Kinsler gets picked off

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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As meltdowns go, the one suffered by the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series was about as thorough as it gets.

The look on Nolan's Ryan face tells the story. For one whole inning, his Rangers could do nothing right. Against the New York Yankees, one inning of doing nothing right is all it takes to undo seven innings of doing everything nearly perfectly.

Oh sure, most of the heat will be placed on manager Ron Washington for his handling of the pitching staff in that disastrous eighth inning, as well as the relievers for faltering. Deservedly so. Without their collective failures the outcome reads much differently.

But as awful as all of that was, it didn't have the same spirit-crushing effect that one very poor base-running mistake did just a half-inning later.

With all the momentum squarely on the side of the Yankees following their five-run rally, Joe Girardi turned to set-up man Kerry Wood(notes). That alone may have offset the Yankees momentum in many fans eyes, but coupled with Gerry Davis' tight strike zone, the move to Wood had indigestion written all over it.

Knotted-up stomachs were not eased when Wood walked Ian Kinsler(notes) on four pitches leading off the Rangers half of the eighth.

Tying run at first. Nobody out. The Rangers had a chance to turn the game right back around on one swing. Until Wood whirled around to first and caught Kinsler in mid-stride heading toward second base.

If the Rangers motto is to run like a deer, then it's safe to say Kinsler was a deer caught in headlights as he froze about 15 feet off the bag.

How does that happen?

"Umm, he threw it over to first and I was running the other way," Kinsler told Craig Sager on the TBS postgame show. "That's basically what happened."

And that's basically what we all saw. How about why?

"I'm trying to steal second," Kinsler continued. "Trying get something going. They picked off at the right time."

Timing indeed is everything, because Wood's pick-off move isn't what scouts would call good. That was only the second runner he has picked off in the past five seasons.

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Please turn in your antlers as you exit the stadium, Mr. Kinsler. You're only entitled to wear goat horns right now.

Of course one cannot afford to overlook every little thing that went wrong in that fateful inning, but there's no doubt that Kinsler's overly aggressive mishap is what sealed the Rangers fate in Game 1.

If they can't overcome the shock and disappointment to somehow steal this series, it could also be listed as the cause listed on their death certificate.

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