ST. PETERSBURG -- Ian Kinsler hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning at the Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday afternoon that would have made him a folk hero for life in Texas.
But the Rangers relievers were unable to make Kinsler's second home run in the American League Division Series against the Rays stand up, losing that game and another one, forcing the best-of-five series to go the distance.
The last ball Kinsler hit in the five-game series landed in the left-field seats at Tropicana Field for a two-run homer in the ninth inning against Rays All-Star closer Rafael Soriano on Tuesday night, securing the Rangers' 5-1 victory before a sellout crowd of 41,845.
"That one [on Saturday] was one of the best feelings I ever had at the time," Kinsler said in the champagne-soaked visiting clubhouse, "but this one just topped it. I couldn't have a better feeling."
Kinsler went 3-for-4 in the decisive fifth game and led all hitters in the series with a .444 batting average, going 8-for-18 with three home runs and six RBIs.
"You never know who is going to show up in these series," Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle said. "He went through some challenges with his health early in the season, but he knows his importance to this club -- getting on base and scoring runs.
"He plays with an edge and that edge showed up throughout this series. It was a big series for Ian Kinsler. People will take notice of him now."
The 28-year-old had at least one hit and scored a run in each of the five AL Division Series games.
"I'm just trying to get on base," Kinsler said. "I'm trying to do whatever it takes for this team to win. It's pretty simple in the playoffs. I've been doing it all, but when you're in the playoffs it obviously elevates the level of focus. I'm just trying to do the same thing I've done all year, just a little bit more focused."
Injuries limited Kinsler to a career-low 103 games this season and he batted .286 with nine home runs and 45 RBIs -- a sharp drop-off from the 31 home runs and 86 RBIs in 2009.
He's back to good health now and he and the Rangers can keep on playing for at least four more games.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.