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Andrus within range

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / October 22, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas - When he jogs out to shortstop tonight for Game 3 of the World Series, Elvis Andrus will be playing in the 29th postseason game of his career.

This would seem like the right time to mention that he turned 23 seven weeks ago.

“He thinks this is how it works, you just go to the World Series every year,’’ said Texas Rangers teammate Michael Young, who made his postseason debut last season at the age of 33. “It’s good to be that young and that talented.’’

Andrus played a pivotal role in Texas winning Game 2, making two terrific plays in the field to end innings, then using his speed and smarts to score the winning run as the Rangers rallied for a 2-1 victory against the Cardinals in the ninth inning. It was the latest sign that Andrus is on the doorstep of becoming one of the elite shortstops in baseball.

He hit .279 this season with 37 stolen bases and 60 RBIs, all career bests. Despite inconsistent stretches at the plate, Andrus hit second for all but nine games in which he started, and helped propel a lineup that scored 855 runs.

“Where I grew up [in Venezuela], I would watch Omar Vizquel and Miguel Tejada and dream about playing like them,’’ Andrus said yesterday. “I hope I’m getting there. I’m trying.’’

Andrus made what he described as “the best play of my life’’ in the fourth inning of Game 2 on Thursday.

With a runner on first and one out, Matt Holliday hit a grounder up the middle. Andrus broke to his left, snapped up the ball, and made a backhanded flip to Ian Kinsler at second base. Kinsler caught the ball with his bare hand and fired to first for a double play.

“You practice those every day,’’ Andrus said. “But when it happens like that, you don’t expect it. Everything goes right . . . I’ve been playing with [Kinsler] for three years and it’s natural now. It’s not trying too much.’’

St. Louis had runners on first and second with two outs in the fifth inning when Rafael Furcal hit a ball hard up the middle. Andrus dived to make a play and flipped the ball to Kinsler with his glove.

“He saved us right there. He kept runs off the board, and that’s exactly the type of play that he’s capable of doing,’’ Texas manager Ron Washington said. “More than anything else, those two plays he made definitely saved runs.’’

With Texas down, 1-0, in the ninth inning, Kinsler led off with a single against Jason Motte and took third when Andrus singled to center field. When Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols missed the cutoff throw, an alert Andrus took second, just beating the throw of catcher Yadier Molina.

“He’s one of the biggest guys in our lineup when it comes to getting clutch base hits, and he did a good job fighting Motte,’’ Washington said. “Elvis read the throw and kept going, and it put us in a position to get what we did.’’

Sacrifice flies by Josh Hamilton and Young scored Kinsler and Andrus, and the Rangers returned home with the Series tied, 1-1.

“Tremendous awareness,’’ Kinsler said. “Elvis ran with his head up and took advantage of a mistake.’’

Said Andrus: “You have to look for those chances. Good base running comes from your eyes.’’

Texas obtained Andrus and four other prospects - catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, righthander Neftali Feliz, lefthander Matt Harrison, and lefthander Beau Jones - from Atlanta at the trade deadline in 2007 for Mark Teixeira and lefty reliever Ron Mahay.

It proved to be a brilliant trade for the Rangers and general manager Jon Daniels. Andrus has been the starting shortstop for Texas for three years. Feliz is one of the elite closers in the game and Harrison will start Game 3 tonight after posting a 3.39 earned run average in the regular season.

Teixeira lasted only a season and a half with the Braves before he was traded to the Angels.

As Texas tries to win the first World Series in franchise history, Andrus has emerged as one of its leaders. As he gets older and develops more power, Andrus could be a perennial All-Star.

“The guy has some of the best range I’ve ever seen of a shortstop. He’s mature for his age. He seems to always read balls off the bat so well, and I think he’s come into his own,’’ Harrison said. “As long as he stays focused, he’ll do a great job and just keep away from the mental mistakes. But the guy has got great range, a great arm, and he’s going to be a big help to his team for a long time.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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