He homered in the seventh to tie the ballgame. And in the eleventh inning, Nelson Cruz made baseball history with one swing of the bat to give the Texas Rangers a 2-0 ALCS lead against the Detroit Tigers. The Rangers and Tigers battled for over four hours in Arlington on Monday afternoon and into the night. For the second time in three innings, Texas loaded the bases with no outs. In the ninth, Tigers reliever Joe Valverde escaped the Rangers onslaught. In the eleventh, relief pitcher Ryan Perry wasn’t as lucky.
Cruz -who doubled early, then hit a tying home run off of Detroit’s starter Max Scherzer in the seventh inning, and later was hit on the wrist by a pitch by Joaquin Benoit in the ninth- stepped up to the batter’s box, in the bottom of the 11th inning, with bases loaded for the third time in the game. On a two-strike slider, he launched a game-winning grand slam to lift the Rangers to a 7-3 win over the Tigers.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the 6-2, 240 pound Cruz’s shot was the first walk-off grand slam in postseason history (with an asterisk from Robin Ventura, who homer in 1999 NLCS was ruled a grand slam-single). For the second game in a row, the powerful outfielder (nicknamed Boomstick) was the Rangers savior, as his solo homer was the go ahead run in Texas’ win in the ALCS opener. His game-winning shot tonight was the fourth grand slam in the playoffs this year, joining sluggers Ryan Roberts and Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona and Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees.
After struggling in the first round against Tampa Bay, Cruz is 4-for-7 with three homeruns, a double and six RBIs in the ALCS. He became just the seventh player in postseason history to hit two homers in the seventh inning, or later, in the same game. He’s the first of those players to have both homeruns either tie the game or give his team the lead.
Rangers’ starter Derek Holland was pulled early, after Ryan Raburn’s three-run homer put the Tigers up (3-2) with one out in the third inning. He walked four batters, becoming the first Rangers pitcher to issue four walks in fewer than three innings pitched. Texas manager Ron Washington then turned to his battle-tested bullpen and extracted reliever Scott Feldman, who pitched four-and-half scoreless innings, including four strikeouts, tying the record for the second-most shutout innings in a postseason game. The Rangers relievers combined pitched eight and a third scoreless innings.
Both teams had an opportunity to win the game in the ninth inning as they loaded the bases but failed to score. Cruz didn’t allow the same result in the eleventh.
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Detroit as the Rangers look to take a commanding 3-0 games in the ALCS. Colby Lewis, who is undefeated in five playoff starts, takes the mound for Texas against Detroit starter Doug Fister. If the Tigers hope to get back into the series, they’re going have to control Cruz’s boomstick.