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Kinsler willing to get into bad counts to facilitate run game

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Ian Kinsler

Detroit – One of these days it's going to happen.

Ian Kinsler, who bats second in the Tigers' lineup, is going to come to the plate with either Rajai Davis or Anthony Gose on first and ambush the inevitable first-pitch fastball.

To this point, he's been taking them in that situation to facilitate a possible steal of second base for Davis or Gose – which is protocol for good team baseball.

"It's not really about the first pitch," Kinsler said. "It's about letting guys get in scoring position, especially if there's one out because then both me and Miguel (Cabrera) have a chance to knock him in.

"Hitting with a guy in scoring position is a lot more important than seeing a first pitch that's a good one to hit."

The situation has come up six times already – once against the Twins, three times against the Indians and twice against the White Sox. Each time the pitcher, wary of the threat to steal at first base, has thrown Kinsler a first-pitch fastball.

There's been three stolen bases in those at-bats, one caught stealing and twice -- both against White Sox starter Jeff Smardzija -- Gose didn't run. In his at-bats, Kinsler twice worked walks, singled, hit into a fielder's choice, flew out and struck out after falling behind in the count.

"That's just baseball," Kinsler said. "That's how you play the game. You try to set up situations and best opportunities to score runs. Those guys (Gose and Davis) have a high percentage of stealing bases; they do a really good job of it."

The Tigers have 13 steals and have been caught four times (twice on pickoffs).

"So even if it's 0-1 and they run on the second pitch and it puts me at 0-2, I'd much rather hit 0-2 with a guy on second than swing at that first pitch," Kinsler said. "And then I am also guaranteeing Miggy gets a chance to hit with a guy in scoring position."

Major league hitters last season posted a .166 average when they've fallen behind 0-2. In his career, Kinsler has hit .192 in a 0-2 count. Last year he hit .211. A 0-1 count has been less of a bother. He's hit .296 with a 0-1 count, .311 last year.

"It's a disadvantage (hitting 0-2), but at the same time, it puts more pressure on the pitcher having that runner in scoring position," Kinsler said. "I am not uncomfortable hitting with two strikes. Things can still happen."

And even if he doesn't, Kinsler said, "Then Miggy gets a fresh at-bat with a runner in scoring position. Of if they walk him, then Victor (Martinez) or J.D. (Martinez) get an opportunity. Either way it changes the dynamic of the inning. The way the pitcher perceives the inning with a guy on second base and one out is different than a guy on first and one out."

So, being a team player, Kinsler is taking first-pitch cookies with Davis or Gose on first. Sooner or later, though, he's going to flip the script and jump on that fastball.

"Oh yeah," he said. "It's all situational. If it's a close game and having two opportunities to drive in one run is worth it, then yeah, you want to take that pitch. But if we are up by two or three, or down by two or three, where one run is not going to change the complexion of the game and I get a good pitch to hit ..."

He's letting it fly.

Chris McCosky on Twitter: @cmccosky