ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Infielder Ian Kinsler #5 of the Texas Rangers rounds 3rd base after a home run on the first pitch of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays September 17, 2013 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Ian Kinsler is without a doubt one of the leaders in the Texas Rangers' clubhouse, just one of a couple of guys taking over the role that Michael Young left open when he was dealt this past winter.
Kinsler isn't the leader, like Young was, but he's one of the most tenured Rangers now and is getting better at filling that role.
On Tuesday night, Kinsler saw just one pitch in the game's first at-bat before he took a ton of pressure off his teammates by giving the Rangers their first lead in 63 innings+1 pitch by sending a rocket just inside the left-field foul pole.
Kinsler's homer not only snapped the Rangers leadless streak, it also snapped a homerless streak of more than 70 innings and set the tone for what ended up being a power display unlike anything the Rangers had seen since the end of August as they clubbed three home runs, including a two-run bomb from Elvis Andrus and a solo shot from Leonys Martin in the ninth inning to put the game on ice.
But it was Kinsler's blast that got the weight of a leadless, winless, homerless streak off the Rangers' back and allowed them to relax a bit in the middle of a fight to the bitter end to make the postseason for the fourth straight year. He later added a two-run single in the third inning before scoring on the two-run shot from Andrus.
"Obviously, we've been fighting from behind a lot this last week or so," Kinsler told ESPNDallas.com. "So to be able to get one out of the way, to get the first hit out of the way, to get the first run out of the way, give Ogando a little bit of breathing room was big. It was a nice reaction, but we knew the game wasn't over yet. It was nice to get off to a good start like that."
Looking back on this rough patch a couple of weeks from now, if the Rangers are in the postseason, it'll be easy to remember when the skid stopped, and it all started with Kinsler.