ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rangers are on Cruz control in the AL Championship Series.
Nelson Cruz hit the first game-ending grand slam in postseason history, lifting the defending American League champions over the Tigers 7-3 in 11 innings Monday for a 2-0 series lead.
"It's an instant classic, no doubt about it," teammate Ian Kinsler said. "When Nellie gets going like he's going, he's tough to beat."
Cruz doubled early, chased Tigers starter Max Scherzer with a tying home run in the seventh and was hit by a fastball near his right wrist that sent him to the ground in pain in the ninth.
Then, with nobody out in the 11th after a misplay in the Detroit outfield loaded the bases, Cruz hit a high drive to left off Ryan Perry that sent 51,227 fans into a towel-waving frenzy. Cruz's trip around the bases ended in a mob scene at the plate.
"It was amazing," said Cruz, who had just fouled a ball deep into the stands near the pole. "First two pitches, I was too aggressive. I hit the ball — foul ball, foul ball. So after that, I told myself just slow down and try to hit a fly ball to the outfield."
Cruz instead did something much grander, hitting the fourth slam in the playoffs this season.
After struggling in the AL Division Series against the Rays, when he had only a single in 15 at-bats, Cruz is 4-for-7 with three homers, a double and six RBIs in the ALCS.
"What he done (Monday), he's capable of doing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Michael Young, the Rangers' career hits leader, snapped an 0-for-15 postseason slide when he led off the 11th with a single off Perry, the fifth Detroit pitcher. Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli followed with singles, the latter on a liner to right-center that looked as though it would be caught. Instead, rightfielder Andy Dirks let the ball glance off his glove as centerfielder Austin Jackson ran behind him.
"It was one of those balls that's a little between us, should have been caught," Dirks said, adding there was no miscommunication between him and Jackson.
The ball dropped for a single that loaded the bases. That brought up Cruz, who also homered in Texas' 3-2 win in the series opener.
STATS LLC said Cruz's slam was the first to end a postseason game — with a postscript. Robin Ventura sent a bases-loaded drive over the fence to finish a Mets victory against the Braves in the 1999 NLCS, but he was swarmed by teammates between first and second.
Ventura never made it around the bases and was officially credited with an RBI single. His 15th-inning drive for a 4-3 Mets win in Game 5 came to be known as "the grand slam-single."