Elvis Andrus responds to leadoff role with five hits

ARLINGTON, Texas – Elvis Andrus said all the right things about not wanting to take Ian Kinsler’s spot as the Rangers’ leadoff hitter. But his bat spoke even louder.

Andrus was a career-best 5-for-5 while hitting first in Saturday’s 7-2 win over the Tigers.

Andrus also scored three runs, drove in two, stole two bases and was a home run shy of the cycle.

It was his second game filling in as the leadoff hitter for Kinsler, who is out indefinitely with bruised ribs.

“No doubt about it, he had a good night,” manager Ron Washington said. “He stayed up in the big part of the field [the outfield expanse]. When Elvis does that, he’s a tremendous hitter. We certainly needed that. He was all over the bag, did a lot.”

Andrus needed a home run to complete the cycle in his last at-bat in the eighth inning, but with just 14 homers in five seasons, the odds were against him.

“I heard mention he was trying to hit a home run the last time up,” Washington said, stifling a chuckle. “And he ended up dunking one in right field.”

Still, a chance to hit for the cycle doesn’t come around very often. No question he was swinging for the fences.

“The last at-bat? Sure,” Andrus said. “[Adrian] Beltre told me, ‘You better go out there and have three hard swings, no matter if you strike out. You got to try to go yard.’ I did, but I kept the ball down. I mean, I’m really happy with a base hit, too. Don’t get me wrong.”

Andrus is also happy hitting leadoff, although he isn’t campaigning to take Kinsler’s job.

“I like it,” Andrus said. “The whole thing about being leadoff is you try to be on base. You see a lot of pitches and set the tone for the team. That’s what I’m trying to do right now.”

Elvis is one of the Rangers’ biggest talkers, but Washington said he hasn’t talked about hitting leadoff.

“Right now the only thing he’s concerned about is leading the team,” Washington said. “He has an opportunity to do that and he’s taking advantage of it.”

Washington made it clear to the media afterwards that Kinsler will be back hitting leadoff when he returns.

“Ian Kinsler has not been Wally Pipped,” Washington said, then repeated the reference to the infamous player who asked out of a game and was replaced by Lou Gehrig.

Andrus’ breakout performance was also indicative of a Rangers offense that’s starting to fall in line.

“They’re swinging the bats well,” Washington said. “Beltre is starting to get it together. [Lance] Berkman has been big for us, he’s been huge. [Mitch] Moreland has been huge. Tonight Elvis stepped up. [Leonys] Martin is starting to come around. It’s starting to filtrate through the whole lineup.

“That’s what we need, because up until this point our pitching has been outstanding but it’s nice when we can put some runs on the board and give them some room to breathe.”

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire