DETROIT — One moment, Justin Verlander and the Tigers were on the verge of watching their season slip away.
After a double play and a lucky bounce, they were headed back to Texas.
Verlander helped save Detroit's season with a gutsy effort and the Tigers hit for a sudden cycle to break away in a 7-5 victory Thursday that cut the Rangers' lead to 3-2 in the AL Championship Series.
Former Rays outfielder Delmon Young hit two of Detroit's four homers and Miguel Cabrera had a tiebreaking double in the sixth inning, thanks to a bizarre bounce off the third-base bag.
"I have that bag in my office right now. And that will be in my memorabilia room at some point in my life," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
After building a five-run cushion, Detroit held on despite Nelson Cruz's record fifth home run of the series. With closer Jose Valverde unavailable for the Tigers, Texas cut it to 7-5 in the ninth and had Cruz on deck when Phil Coke retired Mike Napoli on a groundout with two runners on. Coke got five outs for his first career postseason save.
"Cokie came through for us," Leyland said. "A little different situation for him, obviously, but he was up to the challenge."
The Rangers get another chance to reach the World Series for the second straight season in Game 6 Saturday night at home.
A swift turn of events in the sixth helped Detroit pull ahead. The Tigers turned a bases-loaded double play to keep the score tied at 2, then opened the bottom half with a single, double, triple and homer in order to take a 6-2 lead.
It was the first time four consecutive batters on one team hit for a "natural" cycle in a postseason game, according to STATS LLC.
The Rangers were the ones who seemed on the verge of breaking the game open in the sixth, loading the bases with one out. But then Ian Kinsler hit a grounder right to third baseman Brandon Inge, who merely had to step on the bag and throw to first for a double play.
"We had him right there in the sixth. He got out of it," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We missed a home run by inches, and they opened the game up by inches. Got a ground-ball double play, hits the bag, and from that point on, you know, boom, bam. Put up four runs."
Ryan Raburn, a former Durant High standout and onetime draft pick of the Rays, led off the bottom half with a single, and what looked to be a routine grounder by Cabrera bounced high off third base and down the line, putting Detroit ahead 3-2. "We were lucky, but we need lucky times right now," Cabrera said.
Victor Martinez followed with a triple to right, scoring another run, and Young added a two-run homer. Raburn homered in the seventh to make it 7-2.
Verlander reached 100 mph on the stadium radar gun with pitch No. 133. Cruz, however, hit it for a two-run homer, becoming the fifth player to hit five homers in a postseason series, joining Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez and Chase Utley.
"He struck me out twice with curveballs, so I was glad he threw me a fastball, even if it was 100 (mph)," Cruz said.