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Tigers defeat Rangers 7-5 to stay alive in ALCS
Raburn homered in the seventh to make it 7-2.
After using Valverde and Joaquin Benoit for three straight days, Leyland announced before Game 5 that neither reliever would be available. He was hoping to make it through the day with just Verlander and Coke, and that’s exactly what happened.
“Well, it’s what we said before the game. So it gave everybody a chance to get all their second-guessing ready about it,” Leyland said. “That’s just the way it had to be today. We talked about it before the game and we did exactly what we felt we had to do to give ourselves any chance to win the series.”
Verlander allowed four runs and eight hits in 7 1-3 innings, throwing a career-high 133 pitches. He struck out eight and walked three.
“I want the ball. I want to go as deep as possible,” Verlander said. “It was a battle for me, all night.”
Verlander reached 100 mph on the stadium radar gun with pitch No. 133. Cruz, however, caught up to that fastball and sent it down the left-field line for a two-run homer, chasing Verlander and setting a record for homers in a league championship series.
“He struck me out twice with curveballs, so I was glad he threw me a fastball, even if it was 100 (mph),” Cruz said. “I think I might have had streaks like this in the minors, maybe, but I’ve never hit this many homers this fast in the majors.”
Cruz became the fifth player to hit five homers in a postseason series. Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez and Chase Utley were the others.
“I don’t like to do that in the middle of a ballgame, but when they show their support that way, you can’t help but give them a little tip of the cap or a wave or something,” Verlander said. “They’ve been tremendous all year.”
After winning 24 games and leading the American League in ERA and strikeouts, Verlander hadn’t had much of a chance to shine this postseason. Two of his first three playoff starts were ended early by rain delays.
He didn’t have to worry about that Thursday. Game 5 began under a cloudy sky with the sun peeking through over Comerica Park, and the threatening sky later didn’t amount to anything until a misty rain began to fall over the field — after the game was over.
This time, the Rangers were Verlander’s biggest obstacle. With two strikes on Kinsler in the first, Verlander went to his sweeping breaking ball, and the Texas second baseman pulled it to left field for a double. After going to third on a groundout by Elvis Andrus, Kinsler came home on Josh Hamilton’s sacrifice fly to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
“I kind of haven’t had my rhythm,” Verlander said.
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