The long ball was Kinsler's 30th of the season, which, combined with his 30th stolen base Thursday made him only the second player in Rangers' history to put up a 30-30 season. He joins Alfonso Soriano, who did it in 2005. Kinsler also joined Soriano, who also had 30-30 seasons in '02 and '03 for the Yankees, and Brandon Phillips ('07) as the only 30-30 second basemen in Major League history.
The homer ended a long wait. Kinsler hit No. 29 on Sept. 1 before going 20 games and 78 at-bats without a long ball.
"Everyone was behind me, wanting me to get it out of the way," he said. "It took a little while to get that last one. I wasn't really pressing, because you do the same things at the plate. It's more like standing in the on-deck circle wondering if this is the at-bat, or driving to the ballpark wondering if this is the day you'll get it out of the way. But it's not something that was weighing on me or anything."
Still, there was relief all around.
"Kins got the monkey off his back," manager Ron Washington said. "He had great at-bats all night long. He was on everything. It was only fitting that he ended up catching one."
Kinsler's battles with Rays starter James Shields (10-12) led to two walks, one of which allowed him to score what turned out to be the winning run. Running on the pitch in the fourth inning of a 3-3 game, Kinsler was able to take third on David Murphy's single and scored on a double-play ball hit by Ivan Rodriguez.
The Rangers got some insurance an inning later with an unlikely RBI from Josh Hamilton, who returned to the lineup as the designated hitter after missing 19 games because of a pinched nerve in his back.
With Pedro Borbon on third thanks to a single, a stolen base and an Elvis Andrus sacrifice, Hamilton hit a weak dribbler toward Rays first baseman Willy Aybar. As Aybar ran toward the line to tag Hamilton, Andrus broke for home.
Though he was standing right next to Hamilton, Aybar inexplicably forgot to tag him and instead wheeled to throw to the plate. The throw was late, and both Andrus and Hamilton were safe.
Hamilton, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, was given credit for a fielder's choice and an RBI, the 50th of his injury-shortened season.
"It's obviously frustrating," said Hamilton, who followed his breakout 2008 season by playing only 88 games due to various injuries. "You can't help but be. You can't find a rhythm playing when you're not out there doing it. It seemed like whenever I finally get back feeling good with my swing and everything, something else would happen. So personal goals have been out the window for awhile."
Hamilton said he could trace all his injuries to a hard collision with an outfield wall in a May 17 game against the Angels.
"It [isn't] like I got hurt from not being in shape or by like swinging or running or throwing or anything like that," he said. "It was from hitting the wall. And after that, it was one thing after another. You can't predict when you're going to get hurt. You can't not play hard trying not to get hurt. You play, and if you get hurt, it's part of the game."
The Rangers grabbed the lead in the top of the first on Marlon Byrd's two-run double into the right-center-field gap, bringing home Borbon and Andrus. Chris Davis blasted a homer to right in the second for a 3-0 lead.
Tampa Bay tied it in the third on a homer by Gabe Kapler and back-to-back RBI singles by Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist off Rangers starter Derek Holland (8-12), who gave up five hits in five innings. Neftali Feliz, Darren O'Day, C.J. Wilson and Frank Francisco finished up with four innings of scoreless relief.
Holland said his greatest achievement of the night was not letting the three-run third inning, during which the Rays sent eight batters to the plate, snowball into a poor outing. Holland came back to shut out the Rays in the fourth and fifth before sitting for the night.
"That goes with me maturing out there," Holland said. "You've got to stay mentally tough, no matter what happens. When I first got here, it was hard to get used to that because I hadn't really experienced anything like that. I'd get upset with myself and let my emotions get the best of me. Now I know you have to stay strong and not worry about what happened."