Tigers’ Kinsler smacks 200th homer to join elite club

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Andrew Romine  congratulates Ian Kinsler after scoring on Kinsler's two-run homer in the ninth Sunday.

St. Petersburg, Fla. – Ian Kinsler listened as the names on the list were read off: Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Joe Morgan, Willie Mays, Derek Jeter, Paul Molitor, Bo Jackson, George Brett, Barry Bonds…

“I don’t know what to think about that,” he said before Sunday's game. “When you get mentioned with names like that, it’s really hard to put together a response. Honestly, you can say you are humbled and all that stuff, but I don’t know if humbled is the right word. Those are legends of the game.”

Awed?

“Yeah, a little bit,” he said.

With his two-run home run off the catwalk in left field in the ninth inning Sunday at Tropicana Field, Kinsler gained membership into a distinguished club, one laden with mostly Hall-of-Fame players.

It was home run No. 200. He is now the 40th player in Major League Baseball history — and the seventh fastest — to achieve 200 home runs, 1,000 runs, 1,600 hits and 200 stolen bases.

The only active players in that club are Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins (who was released last month by the White Sox).

“Hopefully I can get into another group after this one,” Kinsler said. “Just continue to play and hopefully it takes me to another spot.”

He did just that in the ninth inning of Detroit's 5-1 triumph.

Kinsler doesn’t normally like to talk about his personal accomplishments. The only stat he wants to compile is wins. But getting into this club is special to him because it reflects the type of do-it-all player he strives to be.

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“I try to do whatever it takes and not be one-dimensional,” he said. “It’s kind of my goal, when I play the game, to be able to run the bases well, play defense well and try to perform every aspect of the game on offense – steal, score from first, advance on a ball in the dirt.

“Hopefully when I hit my 200th – if I hit my 200th – that will be a reflection of that.”

Manager Brad Ausmus has been extolling Kinsler’s diverse talents and profound impact on the team for three years. And it goes well beyond tangible statistics.

“I don’t want to say he’s the heartbeat of the team, but at the top of our order, it’s almost like, as he goes we go,” he said. “He definitely plays with an edge, in a good way. He wants to beat the other team. It’s not actually this, but he almost plays like he’s mad at the other team and he wants to beat them.”

In that sense, he reminds Ausmus of another player in the club Kinsler is about to join – his former teammate Craig Biggio.

“It must be that all second basemen play angry,” Ausmus joked.

Kinsler’s anger, if that’s the right word, is often directed inward. He’s a perfectionist and seldom satisfied with his own performance.

“I’ve probably had one or two years in my career where I’ve done everything offensively that I wanted,” he said. “But I’ve been able to be fairly consistent through the years. That comes with experience. The more you play, the more the game slows down for you and you become more consistent.

“The more time you spend on something, the more consistent you get. That’s the idea.”

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He’s never knocked in 100 runs in a season. He’s hit 30 or more homers twice and hit over .300 once. But his career averages over 162 games in his 11 seasons reflect his steady production -- .276 average, .793 OPS, 122 runs, 22 homers, 84 RBIs, 23 stolen bases.

“The two (and a half) years in Detroit have been my most consistent years, but I don’t think I’ve provided everything I could,” he said. “I was still trying to get rid of some bad habits and make myself a tougher out than I was previously.

“I think I’ve accomplished that and now I’m starting to add more things (the 15 home runs). This year it feels like everything is coming together.”

Trainer Kevin Rand retrieved the baseball after it fell from the ceiling and showed it to Kinsler in the dugout.

“I thought he was messing around,” Kinsler said. “I had no idea it hit off the catwalk and it was on the field. That surprised me. Honestly, the 200 home runs, I didn’t think about it until I crossed the plate.”

He and teammate Justin Upton were both stuck on 198 homers and were having a friendly wager as to who would get there first. Upton was a gracious loser on that score.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “Health is the biggest thing. You have to have health to play this game a long time. And when you play the game for a long time you are going to cross some milestones. This is a real good one and I am happy for Ian.”

Ausmus said there are more milestones yet to cross for Kinsler.

“If he does this for a few more years, we will be talking about him as a Hall-of-Fame player,” he said. “He has to continue to do it, but Ian Kinsler is a pretty darn good multi-dimensional player.”

Twitter @cmccosky