Wednesday, October 12, 2011 Updated: October 13, 3:11 AM ET
This Rangers club can do it all
By Jean-Jacques Taylor ESPNDallas.com
DETROIT -- Ron Washington's wife, Gerry, wanted details Wednesday night about the Texas Rangers' dramatic 7-3, 11-inning win over the Detroit Tigers.
Every one of them.
And she wasn't interested in taking no for answer, which is her right after being married to a lifelong baseball man for nearly 40 years.
Washington, sitting at his desk in the visitor's clubhouse, was talking on his cell phone and promised to call her back soon.
Finally, she relented.
Nelson Cruz hit his fourth home run of the ALCS in Game 4, a three-run blast in the 11th inning.
"She's excited," the Rangers manager said, scarfing down a plate of grilled chicken and vegetables.
What Rangers fan isn't?
The Rangers, virtually irrelevant the entire 40 years they've been in Dallas-Fort Worth, find themselves one victory away from yet another ginger-ale-and-champagne celebration.
They're one win away from hoisting the American League championship trophy again and defending their AL pennant after an intriguing, heart-thumping win with more twists and turns than San Francisco's famed Lombard Street.
The Rangers are poised to make their second consecutive trip to the World Series because GM Jon Daniels has built baseball's most versatile team and Washington has convinced 25 guys that winning trumps any sabermetric statistic.
This is the type of team Daniels imagined having a few years ago, when he told former owner Tom Hicks that the Rangers needed to start over with a brand new blueprint for success.
"We had to change," Daniels said. "The other way wasn't working."
These Rangers can beat you with power, like they've done for decades. But this team can also win with speed. And defense. And pitching.
And they're a mentally tough group that consistently fights through the adversity that inevitably occurs during the course of a game or a season.
Against Detroit, the Rangers fought back from a 2-0 deficit after five innings. They fought back from Brandon Inge's two-out homer on an 0-2 fastball from Alexi Ogando in the seventh inning that tied the score at 3-3 and would've shattered the spirit of most teams.
Then they refused to be intimidated by Detroit closer Jose Valverde -- aka Papa Grande -- who is 52-for-52 in save situations this season. The Rangers scored four runs off Valverde, who was pitching for the third consecutive day.
Mike Napoli's single to center gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Nelson Cruz followed with a majestic blast to left-center from his Boom Stick that emptied Comerica Park.
"We showed everything we could do -- pitching, defense, base running, bullpen and starting pitching -- tonight," Washington said. "And we showed championship spirit tonight.
"What I like most is that we just show up and play baseball every day for nine innings. As long as there's some game left to play, we think we can win."
This was the kind of win that galvanizes a club and brings it together -- even in a sport such as baseball in which momentum is fleeting.
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Washington used 16 players, and each of them contributed.
Heroes such as Cruz, Napoli and Josh Hamilton are easy to spot, but what makes this club special is that it has a roster full of winning pieces.
David Murphy collected three hits and Mike Adams, Darren Oliver and Scott Feldman contributed three innings of perfect relief, giving the offense time to ignite.
The Rangers' speed changed this game. How wild does that sound?
Detroit starter Rick Porcello was virtually unhittable for five innings, but Murphy singled and scored from first on Ian Kinsler's double. On a 3-1 pitch, Kinsler stole third.
"I knew he'd be concerned about the batter," said Kinsler, "and not me."
Detroit manager Jim Leyland moved the infield in to cut off the run, and Elvis Andrus promptly singled softly to center, tying the score at 2-2.
Then Porcello became obsessed with keeping Andrus from stealing second. His fifth throw to first base sailed into the Rangers' dugout, moving Andrus into scoring position.
Michael Young singled to center, driving in his first run of the postseason.
"We wanted to build a team that was as balanced as you can get," Daniels said. "You can't always be perfect, but this gives you some different ways to win.
"We wanted to get away from being a one-dimensional club. We wanted to have athletes who could play both sides of the game -- offense and defense."
The Rangers are 1-0 in close-out games this postseason. They get another opportunity Thursday against Justin Verlander, the AL's best pitcher.
If the Rangers win, Washington already knows he'll have to stay on the phone with his wife until she tires of talking.
No matter how long it takes.
Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.