By Drew Davison
ARLINGTON – Nelson Cruz has found his 2010 playoff stroke.
After struggling in the American League Division Series, Cruz has come through in the ALCS. He did it on Monday, going deep twice, including a walk-off grand slam to send the Rangers to a 7-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS at Rangers Ballpark.
The Rangers lead the best-of-seven series 2-0, as they head to Detroit for Game 3. Because Game 2 was postponed, there will be no travel day. Game 3 is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Comerica Park. Colby Lewis starts for Texas, while Doug Fister goes for Detroit.
With the game tied 3-3 going into the 11th, Michael Young stepped to the plate 0 for his last 15 against Tigers reliever Ryan Perry, but singled to left. Adrian Beltre followed with a single to center, and Mike Napoli singled to right-center on a ball the Tigers’ outfielders dropped.
That brought up Cruz, who sent one over the left-field fence.
Texas had a chance to end it in the ninth against Detroit closer Jose Valverde.
Beltre doubled off the left-field wall to start the inning followed by an intentional walk to Mike Napoli and hit by pitch to Nelson Cruz. But Valverde escaped it by getting David Murphy to fly out to shallow left, and Mitch Moreland to ground into a rare 3-2-3 double play.
The extra inning battle began after that, one the Rangers would eventually win.
Texas started the game as strong as it finished it, taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning off Detroit starter Max Scherzer. Josh Hamilton had a one-out RBI double, and Beltre followed with a two-out RBI double.
Rangers starter Derek Holland walked the leadoff batters in the first two innings, but worked out of jams. In the third, though, poor command caught up with Holland.
He gave up a one-out double to Miguel Cabrera, and then hit Victor Martinez with a pitch. The hit by pitch came into question, however, as Cabrera thought it was a wild pitch and scored from second.
After the umpires met, the hit by pitch ruling stood, which made it a dead ball. It seemed like the Rangers caught a break on the play, but it didn’t matter. In the ensuing at-bat, Tigers outfielder Ryan Raburn sent a 1-2 fastball over the left-field wall for a three-run home run and a Tigers’ 3-2 lead.
Holland lasted only 2 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits with four walks and no strikeouts.
With the lead, Scherzer settled into a zone, retiring 12 straight and holding a 3-2 lead into the seventh.
But Scherzer served up a solo home run to lead off the seventh, as Cruz drilled one off the left-field foul pole to tie the game at 3-3.
Even though Cruz stole the show, the Rangers bullpen shouldn’t be overlooked.
They came through once again. Longman Scott Feldman worked 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit with no walks and four strikeouts.
Alexi Ogando threw a perfect eighth, and retired the first two of the ninth before allowing a bloop single to Ramon Santiago – the second hit he’s allowed in the playoffs.
The Tigers eventually loaded the bases in the inning, but closer Neftali Feliz kept it a 3-3 game by getting Victor Martinez to popup to shallow center.
Feliz pitched a scoreless 10th, and Mike Adams got through the 11th.