Nelson Cruz made a rocket throw to keep the score tied, then hit a three-run homer in the 11th inning that gave the Texas Rangers a 7-3 win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday and a 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series (ALCS).
The Rangers moved within one win of a place in the World Series thanks largely to Cruz, who backed up the Grand Slam winner he hit in Game 2 by producing two vital moments in Game 4.
In the bottom of the eighth, with Detroit runners at the corner bases, one out, and the score 3-3, Cruz caught a fly ball in right field and made a strong and accurate throw to home, where catcher Mike Napoli tagged Miguel Cabrera rushing in from third to end the inning.
Napoli hit a go-ahead single in the 11th and Cruz then hit a three-run shot into the bullpen in left field to complete the scoring. Cruz became the first player in major league history to hit a pair of extra-inning homers in the same postseason series.
Texas were to try for their second consecutive American League pennant yesterday, sending C.J. Wilson to the mound to face Detroit ace Justin Verlander.
The ALCS has marked quite a turnaround for Cruz. After going just 1-for-15 in the first-round playoff win over Tampa Bay, he is 5-for-14 with 9 RBIs in only four games against the Tigers — and seven of those RBIs have come in the 11th inning alone.
The teams waited through a rain delay of two hours, 13 minutes before the first pitch and there was misty rain floating around through the early innings.
Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run double in the third to put Detroit ahead, but Texas scored three times in the sixth.
Brandon Inge tied it for the Tigers with a stunning homer off Alexi Ogando in the seventh. Inge struggled against right-handed pitchers all year, not hitting a single homer in 171 at-bats, but he changed that by lifting a high drive beyond left field that made it 3-3.
Detroit wasted a terrific chance to take the lead in the eighth following some risky Texas strategy.
With one out and nobody on, the Rangers intentionally walked Cabrera, daring the rest of the struggling Detroit lineup to beat them.
Victor Martinez followed with a single to right and Cabrera lumbered around to third.
Delmon Young then lift a fly ball to medium right. Cruz caught it and made a perfect, one-hop throw to the plate that beat Cabrera by several feet. Cabrera bowled over Napoli, to no avail. Napoli held onto the ball and Cabrera never touched the plate.
Austin Jackson was hit by a pitch with one out in the Detroit 10th, but Napoli threw him out stealing and reliever Scott Feldman made it through the inning without further trouble.
Tigers closer Jose Valverde had already pitched a perfect 10th, but he could not hold off Texas for another inning. Napoli’s single scored Josh Hamilton to put the Rangers ahead and then came Cruz’s big shot that all but ended the contest.
Texas closer Neftali Feliz shut down Detroit in the bottom of the 11th and moved the Rangers closer to another World Series shot.