Playoff position breakdown: SS

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There was a time this season when focus was a problem for Elvis Andrus. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he was trying to do too much. But he was in a rut.

That's where manager Ron Washington comes in. He's given him time off when needed (like recently when he felt Andrus' situational hitting wasn't as good as it has been) and Andrus is beginning to better understand how to use those days off wisely.

"It happens in this game," Michael Young said. "He's kept to his routine, he's focused and he's got some more experience."

Andrus, 23, has not had an error in his last 31 games (going into Tuesday's game). That's progress for a guy that has 25 errors, the most by a Ranger since 3B Mike Lamb had 33 in 2000 and the most by a shortstop since Royce Clayton also had 25 in 1999.

"I've found my rhythm out there," Andrus said late last week. "I didn't have it earlier. When I'm in that rhythm, I keep things simple. I grab a ground ball and throw it. I'm not trying to get to everything to me. I just want to make the plays that are there."

That simple approach is working. He's also taken it to the plate this season. Andrus came to spring training focused on driving the ball more. He had 15 doubles, 3 triples and no home runs in 2010 with a .265 average.

This season, Andrus has 26 doubles, 3 triples and 5 home runs. And he's batting around .280.

"I'm going to all fields," Andrus said. "I think I've had more situations to drive balls too. I'm not batting leadoff anymore. Ian gets to second so much on his own that I'll be there with a chance to drive him in."

Andrus has 60 RBIs. He had 75 in the previous two seasons combined.

"I'm not a home run hitter, but I can catch one," Andrus said. "But I'm not trying to do that. If I drive a ball to the gap, that's what I want to do. Sometimes I end up pulling one and it goes out."

Andrus provides manager Ron Washington an important piece in his lineup. He's got confidence that Andrus can move runners over with a bunt, usually stay out of double plays with his speed and has the ability to situationally hit consistently. That's why Washington has left Andrus at the No. 2 spot, just behind Ian Kinsler. The teammates have made life difficult on opposing defenses and pitchers with their versatility and speed.

We saw Washington utilize that speed in a very aggressive way against Tampa in the ALDS in 2010. That's continued this season with the Rangers taking an extra base when they get any opportunity. Andrus, like Kinsler, is a catalyst in the lineup and gives the club a critical offensive dimension. Add in his defense, which has improved as the season has gone along, and you've got a valuable player.