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Thursday, October 13, 2011
Updated: October 14, 9:40 PM ET
Aggressiveness backfires in sixth

By Richard Durrett
ESPNDallas.com

DETROIT -- Ian Kinsler was expecting a fastball he could drive when he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the sixth inning of a tied Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.

And why wouldn't he? Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander had just walked Mitch Moreland on four straight pitches, one of which was a curveball in the dirt, and had started each of Kinsler's three previous at-bats with a fastball.

Justin Verlander
After walking Mitch Moreland on four straight pitches in the sixth, Justin Verlander got Ian Kinsler to ground into a double play on the first pitch he saw to end a bases-loaded threat.

So when Kinsler saw a 99 mph inside fastball, he tried to turn on it. The ball bounced over to third base, where Brandon Inge stepped on the bag and threw across the diamond for a rally-killing double play. Kinsler, who had seen 15 pitches in his previous three at-bats, was out on one pitch.

But the approach against Verlander -- and most pitchers, for that matter -- is pretty simple: If you get a pitch you think you can drive, swing at it.

"You're trying to get a good pitch to hit, and it doesn't matter when in the at-bat," Kinsler said. "You've got to be ready to hit from the first pitch and not just go up there and take a pitch no matter what. You go up there aggressive and ready to hit."

But that aggression played into Verlander's hands in the sixth, allowing him to get out of a major jam and keep the score tied at 2. The quick double play kept Verlander's pitch count from climbing into the 125 range, where manager Jim Leyland said before the game he'd likely take Verlander out. So the ace was able to go back out and pitch to the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters in the seventh, and got the first out of the eighth before Nelson Cruz's home run ended his night after 133 pitches. The long outing saved the depleted Tigers bullpen, which will get another day off Friday before Saturday's Game 6.

Third base was where momentum lived in that sixth inning. In the bottom half of the inning, Miguel Cabrera 's sharp grounder hit the bag, flipped over Adrian Beltre and bounded down the left-field line for a lucky RBI double.

"When the ball was hit, I said, 'Double play,'" manager Ron Washington said. "It hit the bag. They caught a break. That's what I thought."

The key was the Tigers extended the inning as Victor Martinez hit a triple to right field and Delmon Young hit a two-run homer, pushing the lead to 6-2.

"They got the big inning," Kinsler said.

The Rangers didn't.

But a deep Texas lineup did get to Verlander -- who had his velocity, the filthy curve and the tap-the-brakes changeup Thursday -- for four runs. It just wasn't quite enough.

"They beat us, and now we'll go home and try to win it Saturday," outfielder David Murphy said.

That's the advantage to having home field and a 3-2 lead in the series. Texas gets two chances to finish off the series and head to the World Series for the second consecutive season. The Rangers will play in front of a sellout crowd and in a stadium they thrive in.

The Rangers were 52-29 at home in the regular season, tied for the best home mark in the majors with the Yankees and Phillies. They hit .296 as a team at home and have won three straight postseason games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"I don't know if it's the ballpark or just being refreshed and sleeping in our own beds," Murphy said. "Most teams play well at home, and we're no exception to that. We play better at home. It's the postseason. They will come out and play well; we just have to continue to play good baseball. Today was a good baseball game; we just got beat. We'll be fine."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.