I'm happy for Ian Kinsler. Really happy. Becoming just the third second baseman ever to put together a 30-30 season is a very cool thing.
But more importantly, as far as I'm concerned, he saw a ton of pitches tonight (26 in four plate appearances, more pitches than anyone else saw for either team), and drew two walks, in both cases starting the at-bat behind in the count.
What I'd really like to see over these final nine games for Kinsler, with the 30-30 pressure off and, as a result, maybe a more relaxed approach and less of an inclination to try and do something with the ball up in the zone, is for him to turn that groundball-flyball rate around.
Two pitches before Kinsler turned a Grant Balfour fastball around for the historic homer, he popped a 2-1 fastball above the belt straight up and was fortunate to have it land three rows behind the Rangers dugout, keeping the at-bat alive. For the most part, Kinsler did a solid job laying off the high pitch tonight. Maybe without thinking home run the rest of the way, he can do an even better job of letting those pitches go by for the next nine days, forcing the pitcher to come down in the zone, as Balfour regretfully did on 3-2.
Let's mark it down. Kinsler sits at 250 flyballs and 139 ground balls for the season, a 1.78 ratio that is the worst in all of baseball. Let's see if he can even things out. Doesn't need to be the reverse (Derek Jeter's 0.39 and Elvis Andrus's 0.40 ratios are top five in the game this year), but maybe something closer to an even split would look really good.
Even something resembling Kinsler's 2008 level (1.40) or 2007 mark (1.27) would give me confidence that 2010 is going to be a better year for the 26-year-old, whose 2009 slash line (.250/.322/.484) has to be one of the strangest ever put together during a 30-30 season.
But what I'm looking forward to even more next season is Julio Borbon and Andrus setting the table, all year. Borbon put on an absolute clinic tonight, out-Rays-ing the Rays, and while Kinsler will dominate the headlines and highlights from tonight's game, and not undeservedly so, it was Borbon without whom we probably don't win that game.
The Angels are down to Oakland in the seventh inning, 3-0, and if the A's hold on, the Angels' lead over Texas narrows to six games. That's still a huge hill to climb with nine games to go, but it would be pretty cool if the series in Anaheim were to start on Monday with an even slimmer deficit than that.
It was good to see Chris Davis get his effortless cannonade stroke back, and to see Derek Holland fight through command issues to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard in four innings out of five, and to see the Rangers' top four relievers - all of whom will be back in 2010 - methodically nail things down with one scoreless inning each. And it was great to see Ian Kinsler make a little history.
But in truth, Texas 8, Tampa Bay 3 was the Borbon-Andrus show, one that ought to air night after night in 2010 and for many years to come, and that's what really has me fired up about what we were treated to tonight.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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