Last night the Rangers beat the Cardinals 2-1. The pitching was excellent, as Colby Lewis and Jaime Garcia engaged in a classic pitcher's duel. There were three plays involving Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler in particular, though, that were absolutely pivotal to the outcome of this game.
- In the bottom of the fourth inning with one out and a runner on first base, Matt Holliday hit a groundball up the middle. Andrus fielded the ball moving to his left, made an incredible backhanded flip to Kinsler covering second, who, in one fluid motion, caught the ball with his bare hand, stepped on second base, and threw to first base to complete the double play to end the inning.
- In the bottom of the fifth inning with two outs and runners on first and second base, Rafael Furcal scorched a groundball up the middle. This time Andrus had to dive to his left to field the ball, then flipped the ball with his glove to second base as Kinsler arrived just before the runner to get the final out of the inning.
- In the top of the ninth inning with the Rangers down 1-0, Kinsler led off with a base hit. Reminiscent of "The Steal", the electric ninth inning stolen base by Dave Roberts in the ALCS of 2004, Kinsler stole second. Andrus then lined a single to center fielder Jon Jay, who came up throwing to try to prevent Kinsler from scoring. Kinsler held up and the throw from the outfield went off the tip of the cutoff man’s glove, Albert Pujols, and rolled straight to Yadier Molina near home plate. Andrus saw this immediately and took off for second. Molina gunned a throw down to second, but was a split second late as Andrus slid in safely. After a sacrifice fly by Josh Hamilton that tied the game and moved Andrus to third, Andrus was able to score on Michael Young's sacrifice fly to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. It turned out to be the winning run of the game and it wouldn’t have been possible without Andrus’ tremendous awareness and speed to take the extra base two plays earlier.
These plays are an extension of what Andrus and Kinsler have been doing all season. Defensively, they are the best double play combination in the game. And on the base paths they were baseball's two best baserunners in 2011.
Here are the Defensive Runs Saved totals for the top five shortstop-second base combos in 2011:
||2B Runs Saved
||SS Runs Saved
*Ellis also had another 5 Runs Saved while playing for Oakland this year.
Additionally, Kinsler and Andrus had the most combined Double Play Runs Saved in all of baseball with eight.
And here are the top five baserunners for 2011:
||Stolen Base Gain
This information, and more, can be found in The Bill James Handbook 2012. You can pre-order the book now by clicking here, and the book will be available in stores on November 1.