Andrus' throw, though, was in the dirt, and first baseman Justin Smoak couldn't scoop it up, which eventually led to Magglio Ordonez's game-tying, two-run single for the Tigers.
Andrus eventually ended it with his bat in the bottom of the ninth. With the bases loaded and one out, Andrus roped an 0-2 fastball from Tigers reliever Ryan Perry into shallow center field, lifting the Rangers to a wild 5-4 walk-off victory on Friday night at Rangers Ballpark.
"It's my first time to get a walk-off and it feels amazing," Andrus said. "It feels like you're the best player that night. It's a great feeling."
Indeed, it was an important win for Texas (7-9), which recently endured a six-game losing streak.
All night, the Rangers seemed destined to win. Or so it seemed.
Texas jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on a two-run home run from Vladimir Guerrero.
Guerrero then scored a run in the fourth on an unusual play. Tigers catcher Alex Avila illegally made contact with his mask and ball, which scored Guerrero on an error charged to Avila.
After the Tigers pulled to within 3-2 in the fifth inning on Miguel Cabrera's two-run single, the Rangers added a single run in the fifth on an RBI groundout from Michael Young to regain a 4-2 lead.
The Rangers' bullpen pitched well, too, making up for Rich Harden's third consecutive start in which he failed to go at least five innings.
Dustin Nippert, Frank Francisco and Chris Ray were untouched and handed the ball off to closer Neftali Feliz in the ninth with a two-run lead.
Feliz opened by striking out Scott Sizemore, and after a 13-pitch at-bat, Feliz got Ramon Santiago to flare out to second. But Austin Jackson reached on an infield single when Smoak couldn't haul in Andrus' throw.
That play raised some questions as to whether Chris Davis, a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman who was demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday in favor of Smoak, could have made the play.
"Even if Smoky comes up with that, he's safe," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Jackson is fast. That guy can fly. I think he would've been safe."
Andrus, not surprisingly, had a differing opinion, saying: "I'm a pretty fast runner, and when a defender makes a play like that, 95 percent of the time it goes to the infielder."
Regardless, it didn't matter in the end.
And Smoak did make up for that mishap, leading off the pivotal ninth by drawing a walk.
After Smoak walked, Matt Treanor advanced him to second on a sacrifice bunt. Joaquin Arias then pinch-ran for Smoak and Ryan Garko pinch-hit for Andres Blanco. Garko drew an intentional walk, bringing up pinch-hitter Nelson Cruz, batting for Julio Borbon. Cruz walked to load the bases, setting up Andrus' clutch hit.
While it was a joyous locker room after the game, Harden still had a hard time finding a reason to smile.
With four starts for the Rangers under his belt, Harden remains searching for a win. He lasted less than five innings Friday for his third consecutive start, 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs (both earned) on six hits with five strikeouts and four walks.
Harden ran into trouble in the fifth inning. With one out and the bases loaded, he gave up a two-run single to Miguel Cabrera followed by a bloop single from Brennan Boesch. That ended Harden's day, as Nippert came on in relief and induced an inning-ending double play lineout from Brandon Inge.
"This is the way it's been going," Harden said. "If Cabrera hits it two feet the other way, it's a double-play ball. I thought I made some good pitches tonight, but their hitters were just putting them in play and at the right places. It's frustrating, but we won."
Indeed, they did. And that was the story of the night on what happened to be the opening night of "Elvis Weekend" at the Ballpark. Andrus, of course, is the central figure for the weekend -- he judged an Elvis Presley lookalike contest before Friday's game -- and fans will receive an Andrus bobblehead on Saturday night.
The script couldn't be better for that, either, coming a day after Andrus' first walk-off hit.
"He's a great ballplayer," Washington said. "This kid can play and much does not faze him. He got what he deserved tonight."
Drew Davison is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.