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SportsColumnistsJim Baumbach

Baumbach: Anatomy of a successful double steal

Texas Rangers' Elvis Andrus, left, slides home to

Texas Rangers' Elvis Andrus, left, slides home to score past New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada on a double steal in the first inning of Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series. (Oct. 16, 2010) Photo Credit: AP


For those wondering how (and if) the Rangers would recover from their disastrous ALCS opening loss, they did it by being their usual aggressive selves right from the start of Game 2.

With runners at the corners and two outs in the first inning yesterday, manager Ron Washington called for a delayed double steal. The runner on first tries to steal second in hopes of drawing a throw from the catcher, thus allowing the runner on third to break for home.

It's the type of play that has defined the Rangers this season. They have thoroughly enjoyed putting pressure on the opposition's defense, and that often has resulted in defensive mistakes. This was one of those times, giving the Rangers a lead they never relinquished as well as setting the tone for their 7-2 win.

"Opportunity seemed right, so I took a chance," Washington said. "That's the way we play. It worked and got us going."

Here are the two key decisions made by the Yankees that allowed the play to break down:

Posada's throw

With speedy Elvis Andrus on third, Josh Hamilton took off for second as Phil Hughes threw a 1-and-1 pitch to Nelson Cruz.

The pitch - a fastball clocked at 89 mph - was outside, a few inches off the plate. It actually was an ideal pitch for catcher Jorge Posada to attempt to throw to second, and that's what Posada did.

But should Posada have thrown to second? That's the first questionable decision here.

Posada said it wasn't his to make. "That was the call from the bench," he said.

In this situation, typically, you'll see catchers fake a throw to second in hopes of catching the runner at third base cheating home. Replays showed Andrus took off for home the second he saw Posada begin his throwing motion.

"I took a chance that the throw would be made to second base," Washington said. "If he faked it, wouldn't have happened. But he didn't fake it. So we executed.''

The run scored. Three pitches later, Cruz struck out.

Cano's throw

For this play to work, the runner going for second doesn't run all-out as if he's trying to steal the base. Instead, he has to keep an eye on whether there's actually a throw coming from the catcher, and if there is, he has to stop and get in a rundown, giving the runner on third enough time to score before the runner on first is tagged out.

Hamilton played his role well. When he saw Robinson Cano catch Posada's throw at second base, he stopped short and was about to head back to first to start the rundown.

But it never got that far because Cano - without looking at Hamilton - instantly threw back to the plate in an attempt to get Andrus.

You can argue that was the second mistake the Yankees made on the play. "I thought I had a chance at home," Cano said.

Cano's throw home was low and off-line, giving Posada no shot to tag Andrus. But they probably didn't have a play on Andrus even if the throw had been perfect.

Cano said that if he didn't think he had a chance at the plate, he wouldn't have thrown home. He also said he didn't realize Hamilton was as close to the bag as reporters said he was.

Take two

The Rangers tried the same play again in the eighth. With Mitch Moreland at third, Hamilton at first and two outs, Hamilton took off for second base. This time Posada held on to the ball, and with runners on second and third, Sergio Mitre struck out Vladimir Guerrero.

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