Tigers Force ALCS Back to Texas - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Tigers Force ALCS Back to Texas

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Sports Writer

DETROIT (AP) - One moment, Justin Verlander and the Tigers were

on the verge of watching their season slip away.

After a double play and a lucky bounce, they were headed back to

Texas.

Verlander helped save Detroit's season with a gutsy effort and

the Tigers hit for a sudden cycle to break away in a 7-5 victory

Thursday that cut the Rangers' lead to 3-2 in the AL championship

series.

Delmon Young hit two of Detroit's four homers and Miguel Cabrera

had a tiebreaking double in the sixth inning - thanks to a bizarre

bounce off third base.

"I have that bag in my office right now. And that will be in my

memorabilia room at some point in my life, I can promise you,"

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

After building a five-run cushion, Detroit held on despite

Nelson Cruz's record fifth home run of the series. With closer Jose

Valverde unavailable for the Tigers, Texas cut it to 7-5 in the

ninth and had Cruz on deck when Phil Coke retired Mike Napoli on a

game-ending groundout with two runners on.

Coke got five outs for his first career postseason save.

"Cokie came through for us," Leyland said. "A little

different situation for him obviously, but he was up to the

challenge."

The Rangers get another chance to reach the World Series for the

second straight season in Game 6 Saturday night at home. Derek

Holland will start for Texas against Max Scherzer.

A swift turn of events in the sixth helped Detroit pull ahead.

The Tigers turned a bases-loaded double play to keep the score tied

at 2, then opened the bottom half with a single, double, triple and

homer - in order - to take a 6-2 lead.

It was the first time four consecutive batters on one team hit

for a "natural" cycle in a postseason game, according to STATS

LLC.

The Rangers were the ones who seemed on the verge of breaking

the game open in the sixth, loading the bases with one out. But

then Ian Kinsler hit a grounder right to third baseman Brandon

Inge, who merely had to step on the bag and throw to first for a

double play.

"We had him right there in the sixth. He got out of it," Texas

manager Ron Washington said. "We missed a home run by inches, and

they opened the game up by inches. Got a groundball double play,

hits the bag, and from that point on, you know, boom, bam. Put up

four runs."

Ryan Raburn led off the bottom half with a single, and what

looked to be a routine grounder by Cabrera bounced high off third

base and down the line, putting Detroit ahead 3-2.

"We were lucky, but we need lucky times right now," Cabrera

said. "Hopefully we're lucky Saturday."

Victor Martinez followed with a rare triple down the right-field

line, scoring another run, and Young added a two-run homer.

Raburn homered in the seventh to make it 7-2.

After using Valverde and Joaquin Benoit for three straight days,

Leyland announced before Game 5 that neither reliever would be

available. He was hoping to make it through the day with just

Verlander and Coke, and that's exactly what happened.

"Well, it's what we said before the game. So it gave everybody

a chance to get all their second-guessing ready about it," Leyland

said. "That's just the way it had to be today. We talked about it

before the game and we did exactly what we felt we had to do to

give ourselves any chance to win the series."

Verlander allowed four runs and eight hits in 7 1-3 innings,

throwing a career-high 133 pitches. He struck out eight and walked

three.

"I want the ball. I want to go as deep as possible," Verlander

said. "It was a battle for me, all night."

Verlander reached 100 mph on the stadium radar gun with pitch

No. 133. Cruz, however, caught up to that fastball and sent it down

the left-field line for a two-run homer, chasing Verlander and

setting a record for homers in a league championship series.

"He struck me out twice with curveballs, so I was glad he threw

me a fastball, even if it was 100 (mph)," Cruz said. "I think I

might have had streaks like this in the minors, maybe, but I've

never hit this many homers this fast in the majors."

Cruz became the fifth player to hit five homers in a postseason

series. Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez and Chase

Utley were the others.

Verlander left the game after Cruz's homer, raising his glove to

acknowledge the cheering fans.

"I don't like to do that in the middle of a ballgame, but when

they show their support that way, you can't help but give them a

little tip of the cap or a wave or something," Verlander said.

"They've been tremendous all year."

After winning 24 games and leading the American League in ERA

and strikeouts, Verlander hadn't had much of a chance to shine this

postseason. Two of his first three playoff starts were ended early

by rain delays.

He didn't have to worry about that Thursday. Game 5 began under

a cloudy sky with the sun peeking through over Comerica Park, and

the threatening sky later didn't amount to anything until a misty

rain began to fall over the field - after the game was over.

This time, the Rangers were Verlander's biggest obstacle. With

two strikes on Kinsler in the first, Verlander went to his sweeping

breaking ball, and the Texas second baseman pulled it to left field

for a double. After going to third on a groundout by Elvis Andrus,

Kinsler came home on Josh Hamilton's sacrifice fly to give the

Rangers a 1-0 lead.

"I kind of haven't had my rhythm," Verlander said.

Texas starter C.J. Wilson was sharp at the start, retiring his

first seven batters.

Alex Avila tied it with an opposite-field homer to left in the

third. The Detroit catcher has taken a beating behind the plate all

year and has had a miserable postseason, going 2 of 33 before the

homer.

Young was actually left off Detroit's ALCS roster because of an

injury, but he returned before Game 2 after Magglio Ordonez

re-fractured his ankle. Young's homer over the fence in left-center

gave Detroit a 2-1 lead in the fourth.

Hamilton's RBI single in the fifth tied the game at 2.

"This has been a tremendous, tremendous series in my opinion,"

Leyland said.

Wilson, a left-hander who has struggled in three playoff starts

this year, was done in by Detroit's rally in the sixth and came out

after that inning. He allowed six runs and eight hits, striking out

five and walking two.

With two outs in the ninth, Hamilton doubled and Michael Young

drove him home with a single that made it 7-5. After a walk to

Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli grounded into a forceout, sending the

series back to Texas.

"The Detroit Tigers are here for a reason. Tonight their backs

were against the wall. They did what they had to do - catching a

break included," Washington said. "Now we go home. We still feel

good about ourselves."

NOTES: According to STATS, the last pitcher to throw 133 pitches

in the playoffs was Mark Prior of the Chicago Cubs, who threw the

same number in a 2003 NL division series game against Atlanta. ...

Delmon Young has five homers in the AL playoffs. He hit three

during the division series against the New York Yankees. ... Avila

hit only three of his 19 homers during the regular season off

left-handers. ... There were a few empty seats visible when the

teams took the field for the late-afternoon start.

 

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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