October 21, 2011
In a postseason so far dominated by offensive performances, pitching and defense have come to the forefront through the first two games of the World Series.
Not a problem for the Texas Rangers. They can rely heavily on their offense, and they can pitch and catch the baseball, too. The latter was on full display in their critical 2-1 series-tying victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2.
Starters Colby Lewis(notes) and Jaime Garcia(notes) did a great job setting the tone early for their respective teams, making us wait 18 batters before Rafael Furcal(notes) delivered the game's first hit — a ringing double into right field. The pitching excellence continued on from there, with limited scoring opportunities occurring for both sides.
But it was Lewis who would require a little more help from his glove men along the way, and he received it from shortstop Elvis Andrus(notes) and second baseman Ian Kinsler(notes). The Rangers' dazzling double-play duo would team up for not one, but two sparkling, inning-ending, potentially run-saving defensive gems that kept the game scoreless in the middle innings.
The first play happened in the fourth inning. With a runner on first and one out, Matt Holliday(notes) grounded one up the middle that Andrus ranged to his left to flag down. He then transferred to ball to his throwing hand for a perfect backhand flip that Kinsler barehanded and relayed to first for a sensational double play. One of the best we've seen all season.
But Andrus would go one better in the next inning, robbing Jon Jay(notes) of a hit and an RBI on a baseball ticketed for center field. This time Andrus left his feet to glove it, and only had time to flip it with his glove. He did so precisely, leading Kinsler to the second base bag just in time to force Garcia.
It really could not have been executed any better had they spent the past three seasons practicing it. In fact, in the three years they've worked together, Kinsler thinks it ranks as one of Andrus' finest plays.
"I mean, the play was ridiculous. It was probably one of the best I've seen, not just him, but just defensive play was probably one of the best I've seen," said Kinsler. "Glove flip was right on the money. It doesn't get any better than that."
[Slideshow: Check out photos from World Series Game 2]
The play was awe-inspiring at first look. And it only gets better with each replay, especially when you now realize the impact it had on the outcome.
I don't blame him. There's no doubt it was a game-changer. Should the Rangers eventually win the Series, it could end up being a series-changer and the signature play of their entire postseason run.
Still a lot of work to be done to get there. Just as there was in order to win Game 2. The Rangers still needed to scrape together a pair of runs. When the chips were down, again it was Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus making it happen.
Down 1-0 in the ninth, Kinsler led-off with a single and then swiped second. Andrus followed with his own line-drive single to center. Kinsler aggressively made the turn around third, which drew a throw from Jon Jay towards home that Albert Pujols(notes) deflected on the cutoff. Andrus scooted into second with the go-ahead tally.
And they should. They needed the win in a game where they couldn't rely on their offense as much as they like to, and they found other ways to get it done. That's a feather in their cap, and a reminder why teams that don't value defense and fundamentals aren't participating in this year's World Series.
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