Running Rangers beat Rays at their own game
Daring moves on basepaths key to Texas' Game 5 victory
ST. PETERSBURG -- Slow-footed catcher Bengie Molina stole his first base in more than four years on Tuesday night, but that was nothing compared to the daring baserunning by three of his Rangers teammates.
A run-at-will philosophy the home-team Rays used to lead the American League in wins during the regular season served the Rangers well in the decisive Game 5 of the AL Division Series.
When it was all said and done, the Rangers kept the home disadvantage intact from start to finish with a 5-1 victory over the AL East champion Rays at Tropicana Field.
Ian Kinsler hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning to secure the most significant victory in franchise history, but the first three runs were all generated with speed and guile.
"That's what we have been doing all year," Kinsler said. "Anyone who has been watching us knows that we have ran the bases like this all year. Today we were able to do it and it paid off for us."
It looked familiar to the Rays.
"They played our game tonight and they beat us," manager Joe Maddon said. "They made the breaks on the bases tonight. They deserved to win."
See Elvis Andrus run.
The Rangers shortstop was on second base with one out in the first inning, getting there via a single and stolen base, when Josh Hamilton hit a routine ground ball to Rays first baseman Carlos Pena.
Pena flipped the ball to pitcher David Price for the out, and the alert Andrus never slowed down as he rounded third base and sprinted the final 90 feet to score the first run of the game.
It was, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the first time this season that Andrus scored from second base on an infield out.
"Those who follow our club would know we can run the bases with reckless abandon at times," hitting coach Clint Hurdle said. "We stepped on the gas tonight and found a way to manufacture runs."
Scoring from second on an infield out is rare, but it happened again in the sixth inning.
See Vladimir Guerrero run.
Standing on second with one out, Guerrero ran to third when Kinsler hit a grounder to Pena, who went to second to force out Nelson Cruz. The relay throw to first, which was being covered by Price, arrived a tad late.
Kinsler signaled "safe," so did the umpire and Price turned around to look at the ump.
Guerrero kept running and scored with a headfirst slide, giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
"Elvis and Vlad both did great jobs of reading those balls," third-base coach Dave Anderson said. "They kept coming around the base, saw an opportunity to score runs, and they did. It was a good job by both of them."
And what did he say to the runners as they were coming his way?
"It was kind of loud out there to say too much," he said. "We mostly go on hand signs. We actually have done that play a few times -- score from second on an infield out. They round the base, see what's happening, and if they get a chance, they keep going."
The fact that Price was on the receiving end of both throws and had his back to the plate enabled both runners to get a better read on the play.
"On the second one, I could have gotten over there a little bit quicker," Price said. "I thought it was hit to the second baseman. I thought it was hit further off the line than that, and then I saw [Pena] had it and then I got over there."
Price said the noise was so loud that "I couldn't really hear anything. I couldn't hear anybody yelling at me."
Sandwiched between those two run-scoring infield outs was another second-to-home dash.
See Cruz not run, and then run.
Cruz hit a ball to center field in the fourth inning that he thought was going to go over the fence, so he stood at the plate, admired the flight of the ball, clicked into cruise control -- and watched the ball hit the fence and carom toward left field.
Cruz turned a triple into a double -- but not for long.
After Price gave Cruz a brief glance, the runner high-tailed it to third, sliding in headfirst.
An accurate throw probably would have nailed him and ended the inning, but catcher Kelly Shoppach, trying to hit a moving target in third baseman Evan Longoria, missed badly.
The ball sailed into left field and Cruz got back on his feet and trotted home, a little faster than he trotted to first.
"He probably thought he should have been on third," Anderson said, "but he did a nice job there. He took a shot with two outs, forced them into making a throwing error and scored the run."
The Rangers' work on the basepaths was the key to reaching the AL Championship Series for the first time in franchise history.
"They were aggressive and we made some mistakes," Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett said. "You can't win big ballgames like that. They always say speed kills. They put pressure on us and we didn't execute."
Molina swiped second base in third inning, his first theft since September 2006.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.