Mike Napoli’s RBI single off Jose Valverde with one out in the 11th inning broke a 3-3 tie, giving the Texas Rangers the lead over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 of the ALCS.
But the Rangers weren’t finished from there. Nelson Cruz followed up with a three-run bomb to left-center field that gave Texas a 7-3 lead put the game out of reach for the Tigers.
In the bottom of the 11th, Neftali Feliz set Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Don Kelly down in order, giving the Rangers a 3-1 series lead heading into Thursday’s Game 5.
The Tigers got off to an encouraging start in this game, taking a 2-0 lead in the third on Cabrera’s two-run double. Rick Porcello also pitched five strong innings, allowing just two hits and no runs.
But it fell apart for Porcello in the sixth, as his location wasn’t nearly as sharp as it had been earlier in the game. That forced Porcello to throw some easy strikes, and the Rangers’ batters didn’t miss those pitches.
Porcello gave up hits to three of the first four batters he faced in the sixth. That, along some aggressive baserunning by Texas, tied the game at 2-2. The Tigers complicated matters with two outs in the inning by trying to hold the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus at first base with Michael Young at the plate. Porcello made several throws over to first to keep Andrus close, but eventually skipped one away from Cabrera, allowing Andrus to advance to second.
Young followed up with a single to center field, driving Andrus home to give Texas a 3-2 lead.
In the seventh inning, Brandon Inge hit an improbable home run off Alexi Ogando to tie the game at 3-3. The homer wasn’t only surprising because of Ogando’s success against the Tigers and throughout the postseason, but because he was ahead of Inge in the count 0-2. But he served up a fat pitch that Inge cranked into the left-field seats.
The Tigers likely blew their best chance to take the lead in the eighth when an intentional walk to Cabrera and single by Martinez gave them two runners on with one out. But Delmon Young hit a fly ball to right field that probably wasn’t quite deep enough for Cabrera to tag up on. Cabrera tried anyway, and a perfect throw from Cruz beat him to home plate by several steps for an easy double play.
With the game still tied in the 10th, Detroit made yet another questionable decision when Austin Jackson was hit by a pitch. Perhaps feeling that the Tigers needed to do something to generate a scoring chance, Jackson tried to steal second base and was thrown out.
Whether the call was made from the dugout or by Jackson himself, it seemed like an unnecessary risk to take with Cabrera in the on-deck circle. Ryan Raburn followed up with a strikeout, preventing Cabrera from coming to bat.
Valverde put the Rangers down in order for the ninth inning and looked strong enough to pitch the 10th. But maybe pitching for a third straight day finally caught up to him.
One decision that didn’t help Valverde was intentionally walking Adrian Beltre with one out in the inning. With a runner on second base, putting Beltre on to try and force a double play may have been the right decision in most instances. But Beltre has been banged up, especially after fouling pitches off his shin and knee in Tuesday’s Game 3. Would it have been better to pitch to him than Napoli? Under the circumstances, it may have been.
The Tigers don’t have much time to mull over questionable decisions, however. Their season is on the line in Thursday’s Game 5. Can Justin Verlander keep Detroit’s postseason alive for one more game? First pitch is scheduled for 4:19 p.m. ET.