ARLINGTON The Rangers finally won a postseason game by more than one run. Of course, it took the first walk-off grand slam in postseason history to make it happen.
Nelson Cruz entered the ALCS in a bad slump, but he reminded everyone Monday why he's one of the most feared hitters in the game. He tied it, 3-3, with a solo home run in the seventh and then ended it with another blast in the 11th inning that gave the Rangers a 7-3 win and a 2-0 lead in the ALCS.
Since 1985, only three teams that held a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven LCS have gone on to lose the series.
Both teams had the bases loaded in the ninth inning, the Rangers with no outs. But Detroit closer Jose Valverde kept his season-long saves streak intact when he induced a harmless pop fly from David Murphy and a double play off the bat of Mitch Moreland.
The Rangers had to overcome an awful outing from starter Derek Holland, who was fortunate to only give up three runs during his 2 23 innings.
Once again, the Rangers bullpen was brilliant in holding the Tigers scoreless for 8 13 innings.
In the biggest start of his young career, Holland spit the bit. He flirted with disaster from the start, and eventually experienced it in the third inning.
If this series returns to North Texas, manager Ron Washington will have to seriously consider skipping Holland's turn. The 25-year-old has all the talent in the world, but his lack of focus, not to mention location, put the Rangers in a difficult spot.
Not even one of Washington's patented early-inning tongue lashings could save Holland from himself. He gave up four walks, four hits and pegged a batter on a disputed call that actually benefited the Rangers for a moment.
In the top of the third inning, Holland got what was coming to him. He got ahead of Ryan Rayburn, 1-2, but then gave up a 366-foot three-run homer to left. The blast gave a struggling Tigers lineup new life and their starter, Max Scherzer, found his rhythm.
The Rangers had runners at first and second with no outs in the bottom of the sixth, but Scherzer bore down and retired the next three hitters. With one out and runners on the corners, he fooled Adrian Beltre with an 86-mph slider. He then reached back and got Mike Napoli to ground out to shortstop with a 98-mph fastball. Scherzer pumped his fist several times as he walked toward the dugout.
But veteran Tigers manager Jim Leyland will be questioned for what happened next. He had two right-handers warming up, but he decided to let Scherzer face Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz to start the bottom of the seventh.
Cruz slammed a 1-2 pitch 377 feet into the left field seats, sending Scherzer to the showers.
Washington turned to long reliever Scott Feldman in the third, and he held the Tigers in check for 4.1 innings. Feldman had only made one appearance in the postseason, and it came after the Rays already had Game 1 under control. He pounded the strike zone against the Tigers with his sinker, and they never threatened him. He gave up only one hit and had four strikeouts. And though he lasted 1.2 innings longer than Holland, Feldman threw 27 fewer pitches. It's no secret the Rangers have the deepest bullpen among the four teams in the postseason, but it's not like Feldman's been one of the headliners.
Feldman served as the bridge to postseason phenom Alexi Ogando, who worked a perfect eighth inning, but was pulled with two outs in the ninth so that Mike Gonzalez could face Don Kelly. That move backfired, but Neftali Feliz was able to escape the inning. Mike Adams came on to pitch the 11th inning and picked up the win for the Rangers.
It has to be demoralizing to Leyland and the Tigers to lose another close game. Left fielder Delmon Young returned to their lineup, but his timing at the plate appeared to be off.
The Rangers couldn't do anything against Scherzer for three consecutive innings, but he finally faltered in the seventh. The Tigers matched the Rangers' bullpen for the next four innings, but they couldn't get out of the 11th inning.
Cruz appeared to be swinging for the downs even though a pop fly to the outfield would've done the trick. Perhaps he didn't want to leave it anyone else's hands after what happened in the ninth inning.
The Rangers now leave Arlington with all the momentum in this series.