Ian Kinsler displays versatility at leadoff

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The big blasts of a historic nature have claimed the headlines for Ian Kinsler. But it's the whole package that has manager Ron Washington pleased with the bat he's got at the top of the order.

Kinsler led off Saturday's game with a home run, just like he did Friday. He is the first player in Major League history to homer to lead off the first two games of a season (thanks, STATS, Inc.). But more than the homers, Kinsler showed an ability to be versatile, an important attribute in a leadoff hitter.

"I want to affect the game," Kinsler said. "There are a lot of ways to do that."

He showed it in Saturday's 12-5 win over the Red Sox. Besides the first-inning homer pulled to left, which set the tone for the Rangers on a night when they had nine extra-base hits (now 15 on the season), Kinsler hit a double the opposite way, drew a walk and scored three runs.

But he also managed to distract John Lackey once he got on base in the fourth off the walk. Kinsler was threatening to steal and Lackey was concerned about it. He went to his low leg kick and kept looking over or throwing to keep Kinsler close. It seemed to impact how Lackey approached the hitter, Elvis Andrus, who ended up doubling to score a run. Kinsler came in to score that inning as well (after easily getting to third on Andrus' double with good baserunning). The Rangers put up six runs in the fourth, all with two outs.

"I hope it helped Elvis," Kinsler said. "That's the goal. You want to do whatever it takes to distract that guy. If you can take just a little bit of that guy's concentration away from the hitter, you feel like you're doing something right. I don't know if that was the case, but I was definitely trying."

Nelson Cruz, who hit his second homer of the season Saturday, said Kinsler is just continuing what he's done the last month.

"He was hitting like that at spring training and didn't want to lose it when the season started," Cruz said. "He hasn't lost it."

Kinsler sees his job as not only getting on base, but doing whatever he can to get the offense going. The last two games, that's been with homers in the first. But he has the speed to get on base and do something once he does and the patience to wait for his pitch and if he doesn't get it, simply walk. Kinsler really improved in that category as a hitter in 2010, with 56 walks and just 57 strikeouts. All of that helps get the on-base percentage up.

"Sometimes the things you can do don't show up statistically," said Kinsler, who has worked on flattening out his swing this spring and hitting to all fields. "It's going from first to third, it's scoring from first on a ball from the gap. Little things you can do that change the momentum of the game. We have a lot of players that do that."

But it helps when the first guy in the box leads the way. That's what Kinsler is doing.