With no margin for error, the Detroit Tigers used home run power, a lucky bounce, and an incredible performance from Justin Verlander to stay alive in the ALCS with a 7-5 win over the Texas Rangers. The Tigers got major contributions from all three of their walking wounded – Alex Avila, Victor Martinez and Delmon Young: Avila’s solo home run in the third tied the game, 1-1. Delmon Young’s first home run of the night gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead in the 4th inning. Then, after the Rangers tied the game at 2, Young’s second home run capped a remarkable stretch of four batters in the 6th: Raburn singled, Cabrera doubled, Martinez tripled and Young hit a home run – a team “natural cycle”, the first in postseason history – to make it 6-2. Cabrera’s double was a ground ball that Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre was waiting for behind third base – but it clipped the corner of the base, shot over Beltre’s head, and helped the Tigers to the big inning. Ryan Raburn’s home run in the 7th made it 7-2, but the Rangers weren’t done.
On a night when the Tigers needed Justin Verlander to pitch deep into the game – he did, throwing more pitches than he had ever thrown in a game in his career – 133. Verlander took the mound in the 8th leading 7-2, having already thrown 123 pitches. With one out, Nelson Cruz hit his final pitch of the night – a 100MPH fastball – down the left field line and off the foul pole to cut the Tigers lead to three. Verlander’s night was done, and on came Phil Coke, the only reliever manager Jim Leyland said he wanted to use in this game – with both Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit having the night off. Coke got the final two outs of the 8th, then the first two in the ninth, but a double, and a single made it 7-5…Beltre walked…and with Cruz waiting on deck…Mike Napoli grounded out to end the ninth. The Tigers now trail the best of seven series, 3-2. The series now shifts to Texas for Games 6 and 7. Max Scherzer starts for the Tigers in Game 6, Greg Holland starts for Texas.