Walkoff slam for Cruz
ARLINGTON, Texas - Nelson Cruz spent the first two weeks of September on the disabled list with a strained hamstring and hit .190 after he returned. That prompted Rangers manager Ron Washington to drop him to seventh in the lineup for the postseason.
Cruz continued to struggle in the first round against the Rays, getting one hit over four games. But he since has put the Rangers two wins away from a return to the World Series.
His walkoff grand slam - the first in postseason history - in the 11th inning gave Texas a 7-3 victory against Detroit in Game 2 of the American League Championship series last night.
It was the second home run of the game for Cruz and his third of the series. With the bases loaded and no outs against Ryan Perry, he drove a slider deep into the stands in left field.
“That was amazing,’’ Cruz said. “It’s special. When you get a chance to give the team the ‘W’, that’s the most important thing.’’
Michael Young and Adrian Beltre singled to start the inning before Mike Napoli followed with a fly ball to right field. Andy Dirks, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning, had a play on the ball, but it fell between he and center fielder Austin Jackson.
Cruz fouled off two pitches, took a pitch outside, then hit his ninth career postseason homer.
“He did it for us during the year when he was healthy,’’ Washington said. “It couldn’t have come back to him at [a better] time. We certainly needed everything he gave us tonight.’’
Cruz was hit in the right wrist by a pitch in his previous at-bat, in the ninth inning. He went down but stayed in the game.
“When I got hit, I thought it was worse,’’ Cruz said. “But in that situation you want to stay in the game. Thank God I got a chance to win the game.’’
After an abbreviated start by Derek Holland, five relievers threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings for Texas, allowing four hits and striking out eight. The Texas bullpen has thrown 12 2/3 scoreless innings in the series and struck out 18.
Scott Feldman’s 4 1/3 near-perfect innings allowed Washington to line up Alexi Ogando, Mike Gonzalez, Neftali Feliz, and Mike Adams.
“That was the coolest game I’ve ever been a part of,’’ Feldman said. “I thought my beard was going to turn gray.’’
The Tigers left 13 runners on base and were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s been a great two games,’’ Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “It didn’t go the right way, obviously. They earned it and we didn’t get it quite done. We haven’t been able to come up with any big hits.’’
Game 2 was supposed to be played Sunday but was postponed four hours before the first pitch by a forecast of rain that never actually fell.
“Kind of a mystery. I was telling somebody if somebody buys an umbrella down here, they cancel school evidently,’’ Leyland said before the game.
Under sunny afternoon skies, Holland lasted only 2 2/3 innings as he allowed three runs on four hits, four walks, and a hit batter. Detroit stranded five runners in the first two innings before Ryan Raburn smacked a three-run home run in the third.
Detroit starter Max Scherzer also had a rough first few innings. Elvis Andrus singled with one out in the bottom of the first inning and scored on a double to left field by Josh Hamilton.
Delmon Young was slow getting to the ball and made a weak throw. Young was initially scratched from the roster because of a strained rib cage muscle but was activated yesterday after the Tigers lost Magglio Ordonez to a fractured right ankle.
With two outs, Beltre doubled to right field and the Rangers had a 2-0 lead.
Scherzer retired 13 of the next 14 batters he faced. The righthander started the seventh inning having thrown an economical 87 pitches. But he lasted only one batter more as Cruz drove a two-strike fastball off the foul pole in left.
Detroit loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth and had the right man at the plate in Victor Martinez against Feliz, the Texas closer. But Martinez hit a popup that Andrus chased from shortstop into center field. The ball came out of his glove, but Andrus trapped it against his chest to secure the out.
Texas loaded the bases with no outs against Detroit closer Jose Valverde in the bottom of the inning. David Murphy popped to left, too shallow for Beltre to score. Mitch Moreland then hit a grounder to first and Miguel Cabrera started a 3-2-3 double play.
The Tigers advanced a runner to second with one out in the 10th and could not score off Feliz. Adams worked around a single by Don Kelly in the top of the 11th to set the stage for Cruz.
Cruz has homered in four of his last five LCS games. The last grand slam in an ALCS game was by J.D. Drew for the Red Sox in 2007.
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.