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Thursday, October 13, 2011
Wilson, Rangers look to close out ALCS



Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
After winning his postseason debut in the 2010 ALDS, C.J. Wilson is 0-3 in his last five playoff starts.

The Texas Rangers can advance to the World Series for the second straight year with a win in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

If the Rangers win, they would be the first AL team to play in consecutive World Series since the New York Yankees played in four straight from 1998-2001. Before last season, the Rangers had never won a playoff series and had one win in 10 all-time postseason games.

On the Mound
C.J. Wilson takes the hill for Texas, looking to end a five-start winless streak in the playoffs (0-3, 5.86 ERA over that span). Wilson won his first career playoff game in the 2010 ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays – allowing no runs on two hits, two walks and seven strikeouts in 6⅓ innings.

For the Tigers, ace Justin Verlander will take the mound, trying to extend Detroit’s season. Verlander has struggled in the playoffs this season, going 1-1 with a 5.54 ERA. Taking away the one inning he pitched in the postponed Game 1 ALDS against the Yankees, Verlander has allowed seven earned runs in his last two starts. In fact, over his career, Verlander’s postseason ERA is more than two runs higher than the regular season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Verlander posted a 16-3 record in the regular season following a Tigers loss. That was the most such wins for any pitcher since 1972, when Steve Carlton won 19 games after a Philadelphia Phillies loss.

Player to Watch
Nelson Cruz is hitting .357 (5-for-14) with one double, four HR and nine RBI in this series. Seven of his nine RBI have come in the ninth inning alone!

Cruz hit his fourth HR of the series Wednesday night (in the 11th inning it should be noted). No one else on Texas has homered in the first four games of the series. According to Elias, if no different Rangers player clears the fence in the rest of the series, Cruz would be the second player to hit four home runs in a postseason series in which his teammates failed to hit even one.

The only player to do that was Babe Ruth, who homered four times in the 1926 World Series, while the rest of the Yankees went without a long ball. Willie Stargell and Rusty Staub are next on the list with three - Stargell in the 1979 World Series, Staub in the 1973 NLCS.

Stat of the Game
The Tigers have trailed three games to one in a seven-game series four times in franchise history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Detroit came back to win such a series once, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in the 1968 World Series. In the other three instances - the 2006 World Series, 1987 ALCS, and 1908 World Series - the Tigers lost Game Five to end the series.