ARLINGTON, Texas – It would be stretch to say that Rangers manager Ron Washington planned for two ninth-inning homer, but the changes he made to the lineup did pay off in Monday’s 4-3 win over the Angels.
The biggest change was batting Ian Kinsler third instead of his usual leadoff spot. Kinsler has batted leadoff in 75 games this season, but in the No. 3 spot he drove in both of the Rangers’ runs to set up the ninth-inning heroics.
“Well it worked,” Washington said. “We needed someone to pick us up and Kinsler did just that.”
Kinsler is normal the spark at the top of the lineup, but with a stagnant offense Washington put him in the role of run-producer. It was just his third time to hit third this year.
In the sixth inning, a Kinsler single scored Leonys Martin, who hit leadoff for the first time. The speedy Martin, who normally hits ninth, reached on a bunt single and was advanced on another bunt by Elvis Andrus.
That run broke a streak of 26 scoreless innings for the Rangers, who held a 40-minute, closed-door meeting the day before after getting swept at Cleveland.
Kinsler again came through in the eighth inning with a sacrifice fly to score Andrus. The way Andrus got in position for the sacrifice, by stealing second then advancing to third when the catcher threw the ball into center field, was reminiscent of previous Rangers clubs that put pressure on defenses.
“Elvis got a base hit, stole a bag. That’s the way we play,” Washington said. “That was huge. The catcher threw it away, he got to third base and Kinsler delivered again.”
Washington’s most momentous lineup change was putting both catchers in the lineup. A.J. Pierzynski, as the designated hitter, led off the ninth with a tying home run. Two outs latter, No. 8 hitter Geovany Soto delivered the game-winning homer.
“I’m so happy for Geo,” Pierzynski said on Fox Sports Southwest. “He’s been great all year. When he gets in there he does a great job. I’m so happy he got the opportunity to do that. It means a lot to him, but it also means a lot to me that he gets the opportunity.”
There’s no guarantee the lineup changes will stick, but Monday’s shakeup might be enough to get the offense back on track.
“I hope so, I definitely hope that that happens,” Pierzynski said. “We’ve got 50-something games and we’ve got to try to win every game. But we know where we’re at. We put ourselves in this position. But at the end of the day we’re going to give everything we have and hopefully it’s enough.”