Thursday, October 13, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Tigers 7, Rangers 5
By Richard Durrett
DETROIT -- The Tigers, behind a gritty effort by ace Justin Verlander and a big sixth inning off C.J. Wilson, forced the American League Championship Series back to Texas for Game 6 on Saturday night with a 7-5 win. Some thoughts on today's game (more to come from the clubhouse):
* The sixth inning altered Game 5 as the Rangers didn't take advantage of an opportunity against Verlander, and the Tigers then put together a big inning off Wilson in the bottom half. And the third-base bag at Comerica Park gets Game 5 MVP consideration. A closer look:
-- Mike Napoli singled and David Murphy doubled with one out to put runners at second and third. It was the second straight inning the Rangers had a runner at third and less than two outs. Mitch Moreland walked on four pitches to load the bases for Ian Kinsler. But Kinsler hit the first pitch he saw from Verlander to third base, where Brandon Inge stepped on the bag and threw to first. The double play ignited the crowd and kept the score tied.
-- Kinsler swinging at the first pitch of the sixth also kept Verlander's pitch count at 113, allowing him to pitch the seventh too. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before the game that Verlander would throw around 125 pitches.
-- The Tigers struck for four runs off Wilson, hitting for the natural cycle. Ryan Raburn singled, Miguel Cabrera doubled, Victor Martinez tripled and Delmon Young homered. Young's homer, his second of the game, was a two-run blast.
-- Cabrera's double hit the third-base bag, bouncing high over Adrian Beltre's head. That allowed Raburn to score.
-- Martinez's triple came after he hit a ball down the right-field line and Nelson Cruz tried to dive for it. The ball got past him, allowing Cabrera to score easily and Martinez to get to third.
-- Young's homer came on a high fastball from Wilson. It was his second homer of the game.
* It was yet another disappointing postseason start for Wilson. He gave up six runs on eight hits in six innings of work. Wilson now has an 8.04 ERA in the 2011 playoffs. He's 0-2 in three playoff starts in 2011.
* Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer off Verlander with one out in the eighth, making the score 7-4. Cruz becomes the first player to hit five home runs in an ALCS. And he'll get a chance to add to that total in Saturday's Game 6. Cruz now has 11 home runs in his first 25 postseason games. Remarkable.
* For the fourth time in this ALCS, the Rangers scored at least one run in the first two innings. They got one in the first off Verlander, preventing the Tigers crowd from getting into the game early. Ian Kinsler started it off with a double, aggressively going to second on a ball hit to left field. Elvis Andrus tried twice to bunt him over and fouled off both pitches. He then grounded out to second to get Kinsler to third. Josh Hamilton scored him with a sacrifice fly to center.
* Kinsler has set the tone as the leadoff hitter, getting aggressive when he needs to and taking pitches when necessary. When leading off an inning in this postseason (any inning, including the first) he's 5-for-12 with homer and an RBI. In the ALCS, Kinsler has two singles, a double, a walk and a popup in his first-inning at-bats. He's scored a run in three first innings in this series.
* Alex Avila, a left-handed hitter, was 2-for-33 in the postseason before hitting a solo home run in the third off Wilson. Left-handed hitters had just two homers off Wilson all season.
* Delmon Young gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead with a solo homer with two outs in the fourth on the first pitch thrown his way. It was the fifth home run allowed by Wilson in this postseason.
* Texas not only tied the score in the fifth but worked Verlander for 33 pitches in the inning, shoving him to 96 for the game. Three impressive at-bats made the difference. Kinsler walked after falling behind 1-2, then Elvis Andrus hit a single to left and Josh Hamilton drove in Kinsler with a single to center. Verlander did a good job to limit the damage, striking out Michael Young on a nasty curve and getting Adrian Beltre to fly out to deep center (after Beltre nearly hit a three-run homer down the right-field line before it curved barely foul).
* Koji Uehara allowed his third homer of the postseason in 1 1/3 innings. The home run gave the Tigers an extra run in the seventh. That came in handy when Cruz's two-run homer cut the gap to three runs. Uehara has a 33.00 ERA in these playoffs.
* Verlander was able to pitch into the eighth, helping a depleted Tigers bullpen. Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde were not available, so Phil Coke finished the game for Detroit. The off day Friday should help those tired arms.
* Hamilton hit two of the hardest outs you'll see. The sacrifice fly was a good, solid one to center in the first and he crushed a line drive to the base of the wall with two outs in the ninth.
* Young belted a single through the right side of the infield to score Hamilton in the ninth and allow Beltre to be the tying run with two outs. Beltre walked and Napoli grounded out to end the game.