DETROIT — The Texas tag team of Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli was too much for the Tigers.
Cruz made a rocket throw to keep the score tied then hit a crushing three-run homer in the 11th inning off Jose Valverde that helped send the Rangers over Detroit 7-3 Wednesday night for a 3-1 lead in the AL Championship Series. One batter before Cruz's blast, Napoli put Texas ahead with an RBI single.
Cruz, whose grand slam in the 11th inning won Game 2, again starred for the Rangers in a game delayed at the start for more than two hours by rain.
With Detroit runners at the corners in the eighth and the score tied at 3, Cruz caught former Ray Delmon Young's fly to rightfield and made a strong peg to Napoli, the catcher, to nail Miguel Cabrera.
"Thank God I made a good throw," Cruz said.
"For you guys that haven't seen Nelson every day, he's capable of doing exactly what he's doing," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We've been waiting for it for a long time, and as I always say, I don't judge Nelson just because he hits balls out of the ballpark. He's a complete player."
Napoli blooped a go-ahead single in the 11th and Cruz soon added his fourth home run of the ALCS. Cruz became the first player in major-league history to hit two extra-inning homers in the same postseason series.
Texas tries for its second straight AL pennant today.
The ALCS has marked quite a turnaround for Cruz. After going 1-for-15 in the AL Division Series win over the Rays, he's 5-for-14 with nine RBIs in only four games against the Tigers. Seven RBIs have come in the 11th inning alone.
Brandon Inge hit a solo home run in the Detroit seventh that tied it. The Tigers wasted a terrific chance an inning later after some risky Texas strategy.
With one out and nobody on, the Rangers intentionally walked Cabrera, practically daring the rest of the struggling Detroit lineup to beat them. The AL batting champion had hit a two-run double earlier in the game.
Victor Martinez, who hurt his ribcage on a home run swing in Game 3, followed with a single to right and Cabrera lumbered around to third.
"I respect Martinez a heck of a lot," Washington said. "Once again, he got that base hit and we almost paid for it, but I certainly wasn't going to let (Cabrera) have a swing of the bat there and beat us."
Young, another banged-up Tigers starter, lifted the ball to medium right. Cruz caught it and made a one-hop throw that beat Cabrera by several feet.
Reminiscent of a home-plate collision with the Rays' Sean Rodriguez in the ALDS finale, Cabrera bowled over Napoli, to no avail. Napoli held onto the ball and Cabrera never touched the plate.
"We throw to the bases every day," Cruz said. "We take flyballs every day, make sure we know the ballpark, we know any situation we can be involved in during the game. When you prepare, everything comes more easy."