ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As soon as Ian Kinsler arrived at first base after a bloop single turned a tie score into a two-run lead for the Rangers, he rounded the bag and swung his right arm as if delivering a hook in a boxing match.
It was the proper reaction. Kinsler's bloop off starter Ervin Santana delivered a damaging blow to the Angels' playoff hopes and in the process guaranteed the Rangers will leave Anaheim further ahead than when they arrived. They now lead the AL West by seven games, thanks in large part to Kinsler's only hit of the night, one that just got over the outstretched glove of shortstop Erick Aybar in shallow left field.
"I was battling him all night," Kinsler said of Santana. "He was beating me with sliders, beating me with heaters. As a team, we were getting a lot of guys on base and getting chances, but we couldn't really break through. That was our opportunity right there. I was just trying to find a hole somewhere."
Kinsler stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. He was 0-for-4 off Santana in the game and Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided to stick with him despite a pitch count in the 120s. Kinsler got a slider that was up a little bit and went the other way with it.
"It was a good at-bat," Michael Young said. "Santana recently has been one of the best in the game, if not the best in the game. He went hard on Kins that whole at-bat. He left one slider up and Kins threw out a perfect lawn dart."
Kinsler has been a big topic of conversation inside the in-game chat rooms and on the ESPN Dallas blog. (Click here to read Ben Rogers' well-worded defense of the second baseman.) Kinsler seems to spark discussion by those who are frustrated by some pop-ups and those who feel he's one of the MVPs of this team in 2011. And he showed both sides on Wednesday. Three of his four outs before the eighth were pop-ups or fly balls. But when the game found him in a critical situation late, Kinsler did what he's done often this season: He came through.
And he showed how much it meant to him and the team with a little emotion after the hit.
"Anytime you can help the team and help in that situation, I'm going to be emotional," Kinsler said. "I'm an emotional player. To be able to come through like that made me emotional. That's the way it goes."
Kinsler has 14 RBIs in his past 11 games and has hit safely in eight of his past nine games. He's hitting .300 on this road trip, one in which the Rangers are 6-0 and have seen their lead in the AL West go from two games to seven.
"It's big [to win this series], but at the same time we have another game tomorrow," Kinsler said. "We have to make sure and stay focused and don't let one slip away. We have to come out and play hard and give ourselves the best chance to win. They're a very good team."