Detroit still alive despite all of its injuries

DETROIT -- The sides ache, the knees ache, the backs ache, the muscles ache, the tendons ache, the toes ache, the fingers ache, the arms ache and pretty much everything else aches as well. But overall the Tigers feel superb. After all, they get to take their tired, sore, beat-up bodies onto the field for at least one more game with the possibility that they could ache like this for another two weeks.

Plus, they get Friday off. Life is sweet.

The Detroit Tigers won Game 5 of the American League Championship Series to head back to Texas with a 7-5 victory that was a testament to all they have overcome this week. Having already thrown 263 innings this year, Justin Verlander threw another 7 1/3 more innings and 133 pitches, but that's nothing. He gets four days off between starts and he says his arm feels great. It's the runs scored for him by his wounded teammates that were impressive.

A week ago, outfielder Delmon Young's strained oblique muscle was sore enough the Tigers left him off the ALCS roster. Thursday he hit two home runs. Catcher Alex Avila's knees are so sore you can practically see them throbbing like a cartoon character that has been hit with a hammer. Thursday he hit a game-tying home run. And designated hitter Victor Martinez strained a chest muscle badly enough in Game 3 it was questionable whether he could bat again this season. Thursday he not only hit a run-scoring triple, he played an accordion in the clubhouse before the game.

Seriously. An accordion. "It's right here,'' Martinez said, pointing to the accordion case. "I bought it in January last year. I kill time with it, playing something I like in the hotel room."

Martinez then casually took a bandage from his travel case, removed his shoe and wrapped the bandage around his right big toe. "I fouled a ball off it the last day of the season.''

Of course he did.

As the Texas Rangers' Michael Young said, all players are beat up by the end of the year. You go into spring training 100 percent, he said, and steadily decline from there. But the Tigers are beat up worse than most.

Consider Delmon Young. The Tigers left him off the ALCS roster due to concern over his strained oblique. "We thought he'd be able to play the next day but we weren't sure,'' Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowksi said. "We knew we had to take it day by day, but the further we got along the better it would get. We figured he'd be ready for Game 5, but we just weren't sure because it's a tough injury to diagnose.''

So they left him off the roster before Game 1, then put him back on for Game 2 in place of Magglio Ordonez, who broke his ankle. Then they benched him for Game 3 because his oblique hurt him so much again. Then they put him back in the lineup for Game 4. And on Thursday, Young started again and hit two home runs. The first gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning. The second broke open the game in the sixth.

"He likes the drama. He likes to have the spotlight on him,'' teammate Ryan Raburn said of Young. "Nah, he's been great. I'm just happy he's healthy enough to get out there and play. Now let's see if we can get him for nine innings."

Young said the oblique goes in and out. "Sometimes it feels worse. It depends on what I actually did during the day to aggravate it or make it better. I've been able to get my timing back the last couple games. This is my first game playing back to back, so I didn't lose my rhythm.''

Then there's Avila, who sprained a knee early in the season. "You keep playing and tendinitis just kind of builds up and it got progressively worse,'' he said. "But now I get treatment and get what I need done to withstand the pain, and that's it."

That wouldn't be such a big problem if he didn't have to bend his knees to squat through 150 pitches a game. "At times during the game, your adrenaline is pumping so hard you don't really notice anything, but every once in a while you feel it. But it's just something you push through.''

Avila insisted for the most part his sore knees aren't a factor in his swing. Before Game 5, Avila had been 1-for-17 in the series and 2-for-33 for the postseason. Then he drove an 0-0 pitch from Texas starter C.J. Wilson over the left field fence in the bottom of the third to tie the game at 1-all. It must have felt as comforting as a dozen Advils.

Martinez strained a chest muscle while hitting a home run in Game 3. He almost had to come out of the game, but toughed it out and said afterward that he would be in the lineup the next day unless he woke up dead. He played in Game 4, then hit a standup triple in Game 5 that gave Detroit a 4-2 lead.

Evidently, he's still very much alive. As are the Tigers.

"My situation is that I'm still playing and in the lineup. And that's what's important,'' Martinez said. "I'm going to give everything I've got.

"It's getting better. It is what it is. I still got to go out there and do my best.''

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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