Monday, October 10, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Rangers 7, Tigers 3
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- What an incredible game and an incredible finish. The Rangers won it on a walk-off grand slam by Nelson Cruz in the 11th inning Monday. Texas leads the series 2-0 as it shifts to Detroit for Games 3, 4 and 5. Some quick thoughts (ESPN Stats & Information helped provide fun statistical facts as well). More to come shortly from the clubhouse.
* Nelson Cruz sent everyone home with an 11th-inning grand slam to give the Rangers a walk-off, 7-3 victory. The crowd of 51,227 went crazy. Cruz stood at home plate hoping to see the ball stay fair down the left-field line. He had tied the score in the seventh and then won it in the 11th.
Michael Young, ending an 0-for-15 streak, started the Rangers' 11th with a single. Adrian Beltre followed suit with a hit, and then Mike Napoli was given a hit on a ball in right field that could have been caught but glanced off Don Kelly's glove. That loaded the bases with no outs (for the second time in the game for the Rangers) for Cruz, who turned his magic.
* The Rangers loaded the bases in the ninth with no outs in a tie game off Jose Valverde. Beltre hit a double to center. The Tigers then intentionally walked Napoli, and Cruz was hit by a pitch on the left wrist, it appeared, to load things up. But David Murphy, swinging at the first pitch, flied to shallow left and not deep enough to score Beltre. Mitch Moreland then hit into a rare 3-2-3 double play to get the Tigers out of the inning. The only other player in the past 10 years to ground into a double play with the bases full in a postseason game in the ninth inning or later was Buster Posey in the 10th inning of Game 2 of last year's National League Division Series.
* Some of you asked in the chat room and on Twitter whether the Rangers should have pinch run for Beltre and sent the runner on the fly ball. I think it was too shallow to try it even with a faster runner, especially because that was just the first out of the inning. But that's just me.
* Cruz appears to have found his swing. His home run off the foul pole in the seventh tied the score at 3. It was his second home run in the series and his eighth of his postseason career. He's building his club record for playoff homers (Juan Gonzalez had six). But it was the Cruz double in the second that might be more of a sign of the end of the slump he was in at the end of the regular season and in the American League Division Series (1-for-15 with five strikeouts). He hit it to the opposite field, something manager Ron Washington said before the game he wanted to see as proof Cruz was getting past his slump.
* With a runner at first and two outs in the ninth and left-handed batter Kelly up, manager Ron Washington went with lefty Mike Gonzalez and took out Alexi Ogando. The move didn't work. Kelly doubled to right. Third-base coach Gene Lamont didn't wave Ramon Santiago home. Neftali Feliz came in and intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera before retiring Victor Martinez on a looper to center that Elvis Andrus bobbled but caught. It was odd to see Feliz intentionally walk Cabrera instead of Gonzalez.
* Down 3-2 in the sixth, the Rangers had an opportunity to tie or take the lead after Andrus walked and Josh Hamilton singled as Detroit starter Max Scherzer tried to get through the Rangers' order a third time. That left the Nos. 4-6 hitters to try to hit with a runner in scoring position. They were 0-for-3. Scherzer got ahead 0-2 on all three of them. Michael Young's liner to right was caught on the run by Ryan Raburn, and Andrus alertly tagged up and went to third. But Beltre struck out and Napoli grounded out to short, where SS Jhonny Peralta had him well-played near the second-base bag.
* The Rangers jumped on Scherzer in the first. Andrus, 2-for-18 before the game, got a single, and Hamilton (4-for-19) hit an RBI double to score the first run. Beltre's double scored Hamilton. But after allowing a leadoff double by Cruz in the second, Scherzer calmed down. He got the next 12 batters he faced.
* Derek Holland didn't have his fastball command. Too many pitches were up, and he was fortunate to allow only three runs in his 2 2/3 innings of work. He threw a lot of pitches -- 76 in his outing -- and walked four batters and put another one on via hit-by-pitch. Holland is the first starter in Rangers history to walk four or more batters in less than three innings in a postseason game. It seemed like Holland was fastball happy, throwing limited off-speed pitches.
* For the second straight game, a Rangers starter worked out of a first-inning jam. Holland gave up a walk to leadoff batter Austin Jackson, and Ramon Santiago singled to put runners at first and second with no outs. But the Nos. 3-5 hitters for the Tigers couldn't take advantage. Holland got Delmon Young to pop up, Miguel Cabrera to ground out to first and Victor Martinez to hit a dribbler back to the mound.
* Things didn't get better for Holland in the second. He walked three batters, including two back to back with two outs (No. 9 hitter Brandon Inge and Jackson). Holland got some help from his defense as Ian Kinsler made a great play behind the bag to flip to Andrus and get the force on a close play.
* After Holland walked Inge and went 1-0 on Jackson, manager Ron Washington went to the mound to have a talk with Holland. The last time Washington did that was July 30 in Toronto, and it had a great effect on Holland. But on Monday, Holland wasn't able to settle down and get his pitches down.
* Strange play in the third. With Miguel Cabrera at second after a one-out double, Holland threw a ball low and it appeared to hit Victor Martinez. But there was no call, and Martinez went to first as Cabrera just kept running and scored. The umpires met for a long time before determining that the ball hit Martinez and he didn't swing (which appeared to be the right call on replay). Jim Leyland argued long and hard.
* A few pitches later, Ryan Raburn blasted a three-run homer to left field to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead. Holland wasn't likely to get out of all of his jams with the fastball up like that.
* The Tigers were 2-for-26 with runners in scoring position in their past four games (including Monday) before Raburn's homer.
* Scott Feldman was critical for the Rangers on Monday. He was solid in 4 1/3 innings of relief after Holland struggled. He retired 13 of the 15 he faced. One batter got on because of an error on Mitch Moreland; the other (Alex Avila) singled to lead off the sixth. The sinker was working, and Feldman attacked the strike zone. When he came off the field after the seventh, the crowd of 51,227 gave him a huge cheer. The last pitcher to pitch 4 1/3 or more scoreless innings in relief was Cleveland's Aaron Laffey in Game 6 of 2007 AL Championship Series versus the Red Sox.
* Moreland continues to struggle. He is 2-for-17 in this postseason and has just one hit since a home run in Game 2 of the ALDS. He had the double play with the bases loaded in the ninth and had three strikeouts Monday.
* It was another sterling effort by the entire bullpen, which didn't allow a run in 8 1/3 innings. Feldman, Ogando, Gonzalez, Feliz and Adams did the work. Texas relievers haven't allowed a run in the series so far.
* Delmon Young played in left field despite an obilque injury. And it appeared he wasn't moving well or throwing well in left field because of it. He was slow to get to a Hamilton double in the first. Young was in there for his bat, and he was 0-for-4 batting third. He was lifted late for Kelly.