ATLANTA — Ian Kinsler is 36 years old, an age when some players are on the downside of their career. It’s probably been a very good career if they’ve lasted that long. Such is the case with the Red Sox second baseman, who has not only stabilized a position that has been chaotic since the loss of Dustin Pedroia, but has provided veteran leadership.
His bat has finally awoken after a poor start with the Los Angeles Angels, for whom he was hitting .178 as late as May 27. Funny, despite Kinsler being a pull hitter, he has not been the guy who would poke a few over the Green Monster as was anticipated.
In the Red Sox’ 8-2 win over Atlanta on Monday, Kinsler doubled in a run to the opposite field during a three-run fifth, and knocked in two runs with a bases-loaded single to right-center in the eighth inning, which expanded the lead to 5-2. It was the first time this season Kinsler had produced multiple opposite-field hits.
At Kinsler’s age, there’s been some diminishing of his overall skills, but for the Red Sox he’s been a spark. He’s been one of the better pickups for Dave Dombrowski, who dealt for a player he once employed in Detroit. Kinsler spent four years with the Tigers after Dombrowski obtained him from Texas for Prince Fielder.
Dombrowski really hit the jackpot. He knew that Pedroia’s loss was going to be a liability on many levels. The Sox tried to fill the void at second base with Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt. That was fine, but Kinsler has truly solidified it and brought it back to the Pedroia level, getting to a lot of ground balls and turning the double play.
Kinsler hit 31 homers in Texas in 2009 and 32 homers in 2011. He hit 28 for the Tigers in 2016, during which he won the Gold Glove. He’s always been similiar to Pedroia with a little more pop. This season he’s hit 14 homers, and his speed is still decent with 11 steals.
“I’m just trying to square the ball up and take what they give me,” Kinsler said of his two hits and three RBIs. “Anytime you contribute offensively it’s a lot of fun, but it comes down to wins. If you’re contributing to wins, it’s fun.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the timing of Kinsler’s hamstring injury not long after he had joined the Red Sox was horrible. Cora has come to really respect Kinsler and what he can do.
“These guys who were playing 10 years ago that were hitting 89 and 90 miles per hour and now they’re hitting 95 and up — it means you’re a great player and he’s a great player,” Cora said.
It’s all about timing for a hitter, and it took a while for Kinsler to get it back. He went on the disabled list Aug. 4, just five days after he was acquired by the Red Sox. He didn’t return until Aug. 17. As a member of the Red Sox, he’s hit .308 with one homer and 10 RBIs in 65 at-bats. Overall he’s now hitting a season high .250.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but you sit around for 10 days and trying to get your timing back, it’s tough,” Kinsler said. “In a player’s head, you think it can happen in a day or two but sometimes it comes and goes for a second in the beginning.”
Kinsler spent eight years in Texas, four in Detroit, and part of one in Anaheim. With respect to some of his former teams, some of which were very good, Kinsler did not want to commit to this Red Sox team being the best he’s ever been on.
“I’m not going to compare,” Kinsler said. “I’ve been on great teams. I’m not going to take anything away from those teams. With this team, the record speaks for itself. Whatever it is they’ve done here it’s working really well. It’s fun to be a part of.”
He loves the Red Sox ability to strike at any time. He called the offense “electric.”
Defensively, Kinsler and Xander Bogaerts have developed a good working relationship around the second base bag.
“Honestly, we haven’t had a lot of time to work together,” Kinsler said. “It’s been really hot and humid in Boston, so we haven’t been able to get out there much. The weather in Chicago was rainy. We had that rain delay and weird time the next day. I also had the 10-day DL but considering all that, it’s come along quickly for the time we have had.”
Bogaerts said he’s enjoyed the feedback from Kinsler.
“He’s helping me out, especially on double plays,” Bogaerts said. “After I make a play, I always ask his opinion because he’s been around the game an awful lot. He’s had a lot of success. I always go to him to ask for confirmation if I did the right thing. Kinsler has come to me and given me advice on how to get better. It proves what type of teammate he is.”
In comparison to Pedroia?
“They’re similar,” Bogaerts said. “Kinsler is taller, but they both have the same big heart and want to help.”
Kinsler doesn’t like to talk about his slow start in Anaheim.
“I don’t think that matters now, does it?” he said. “I mean, offensively. I think trying to be your best to play September-October baseball is the important thing. For a player, everything changes after August. It just clicks. It’s just special. I don’t know what it is. October baseball is what you play for.”
It appears Kinsler is now playing like the Kinsler of old. And he’s blending in well with the younger minds and bodies around him.