Verlander, Young keep Tigers alive in ALCS

Posted: 14/10/2011 in Baseball, MLB
In a bounce, the course of Game 5 changed direction with the ball.
The Detroit Tigers faced elimination and prevailed, living to play another day.
A few inches this way or that, and who knows?
Miguel Cabrera’s RBI double deflected off third base to spark a rally in the sixth inning, and Delmon Young hit a two-run homer to cap the four-run burst that propelled the Tigers to a 7-5 win over the Texas Rangers on Thursday.
With Nelson Cruz showing no signs of slowing down, even against Detroit ace Justin Verlander, the Tigers needed all the runs they could get.
Cruz hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning, his record-setting fifth blast of the series, to cut the Detroit lead to three runs and knock Verlander out of the game.
But Phil Coke saved the game out of a short Detroit bullpen, getting the last five outs and sending the teams back to Texas for Game 6 on Saturday. Coke gave up a run in the ninth, then stranded two runners on base to escape.
The Rangers, ahead 3-2 in the series, will have as many as two more chances to become just the fifth franchise since 1969 to win consecutive American League pennants.
Young hit two home runs off Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, while Alex Avila and Ryan Raburn also homered for the AL Central champions.
Cruz continued his breakout performance, setting a league championship series record with his fifth home run and upping his RBI total to 11. Josh Hamilton drove in the other two runs for the AL West champs.
Verlander (2-1) threw 133 pitches, 94 for strikes, and gave up four runs on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. He struck out eight, walked three and was good enough to play stopper.
Wilson (0-2) allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks, striking out five in six innings.
Before the Tigers took the lead for good, Verlander had to wiggle out of a jam. He did it by getting an inning-ending double play in the top of the sixth after Mike Napoli and David Murphy had dropped well-placed hits into the outfield.
Napoli’s leadoff single hit off Austin Jackson’s glove as he dove for it in center field, while Murphy knocked a ball into the right-center field gap for a one-out double.
But after Mitch Moreland walked to load the bases, Ian Kinsler grounded sharply to third baseman Brandon Inge, who stepped on the bag to start the double play.
After Raburn singled to lead off the bottom of the inning, Cabrera knocked a 1-1 fastball down the line that bounced once, then came down on the outside corner of third base closest to home plate.
The ball skipped over Adrian Beltre, a capable fielder, and into left field to score Raburn from first base and give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
“I have that bag in my office right now,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “And that will be in my memorabilia room at some point in my life. I can promise you.”
If the ball hadn’t hit the bag, the Rangers could have turned a difficult but potential double play to clear the bases.
Instead, Victor Martinez followed with a triple to deep right field — Cruz dove and missed it — and Young hit his second homer off Wilson, a two-run blast to left field that made it 6-2.
It was the first time in postseason history that four players on a team hit for the cycle in succession in a game.
“They caught a break,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington. “That’s what I thought.”
Verlander, above 100 pitches already, set the Rangers down in order in the top of the seventh and Raburn hit a one-out solo homer in the bottom of the inning off Koji Uehara, who came in to replace Wilson.
Cruz, whose ALCS has included the first walkoff grand slam in postseason history among its many highlights, hammered Verlander’s last 100 mph fastball off the pole in left field to get the Rangers within 7-4.
Verlander admitted that he tried to sneak an 0-2 fastball past Cruz, then explained why the cameras caught him smiling when it hit the pole.
“That’s ‘It’s in the air. It’s please go foul, please go foul. I’m such an idiot, please go foul.’ It didn’t,” said Verlander. “That’s why you get the little smirk.”
Coke got the last two outs on seven pitches before facing trouble with two outs in the ninth on Hamilton’s double and Michael Young’s RBI single. He walked Beltre, then got Napoli to ground out.
With closer Jose Valverde and reliever Joaquin Benoit unavailable, Leyland said he wanted to get through the game with Verlander and Coke, which is what happened.
Earlier, the Rangers hit two doubles and took a 1-0 lead during an 18-pitch first inning for Verlander. Kinsler led off with a double, went to third on a ground out and scored on Hamilton’s sacrifice fly. Young doubled to left field, but was stranded at second base.
Wilson retired the first seven Tigers hitters in order before Avila went the other way with a first-pitch fastball for a solo homer to right in the third.
A similar blast gave Detroit the lead.
After Martinez grounded into a double play in the fourth, Young hit Wilson’s first-pitch fastball over the left-center field wall for a solo homer that made it 2-1.
“I’ve been able to get my timing back the last couple of games,” said Young, who was originally left off the ALCS roster with a strained oblique but was added to replace Magglio Ordonez (broken ankle) before Game 2. “This is my first game playing back-to-back, so I didn’t lose my rhythm.”
The Rangers came back to tie it after Kinsler walked with one out in the fifth, went to second on Elvis Andrus’ single and scored on Hamilton’s base hit into left-center field.
– Steve

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