My little sports heart is going to need a cigarette and three months off (aka the Cowboys’ season) after this Rangers playoff run is over.
Last night’s game was just another episode of the Nelson Cruz show, running concurrent with the Mike Napoli show.
Those two guys both made huge plays that are getting overlooked because of their 11th inning heroics. First, it was a team effort in the eighth, as Cruz fielded a fly ball in right field, with Miguel Cabrera tagging up at third.
Cruz threw a laser-guided, frozen-rope, one hop strike to Napoli at home plate to gun down Cabrera by ten feet.
Then, in the tenth, Austin Jackson reached first base after being hit by a pitch from Scott Feldman. With an 0-1 count to Ryan Raburn, Jackson took off for second, only to have Napoli make an incredible catch (on a pitch high and inside to the batter) and throw (a laser-guided, frozen-rope strike to Kinsler) to gun him down.
Then came the 11th inning.
Josh Hamilton led off with a first pitch double.
I’d like to stop here and mention something. I have heard a lot of bagging on Hamilton in these playoffs for always hacking at the first pitch. To those people I ask, where were you last year when he was the league MVP? He’s been swinging at the first pitch for as long as he has been a Ranger. Shush your faces and let the man play.
Then, after Michael Young struck out the Tigers made a very curious move. They intentionally walked Adrian Beltre. Now, I would understand walking Beltre if he was healthy. If he was at full strength.
But the guy just fouled three consecutive pitches off his legs, one off his kneecap, in the game the day before. He’s hobbling. You have to pitch to him.
Now I understand that Jim Leyland wanted the opportunity for a double play, but if you were watching the broadcast last night, you saw that Mike Napoli only grounded into 10 double plays all season. Furthermore, Tigers closer Jose Valverde had only induced four double plays all year.
Whatever, I’ll take it.
Napoli was the next guy up, and his single scored Hamilton from second, putting the Rangers up 4-3.
The next hitter was Cruz. He only needed one pitch to put the dagger in Detroit’s face.
He it a 400+ foot bomb to left-center to expand the lead to 7-3, and effectively place the Rangers one win away from the World Series.
Today, they have the opportunity to win their second consecutive AL pennant, and they’ll have to go through Justin Verlander to get it.
As good as Verlander has been all season, the Rangers have beaten him twice, including in the rain affected game 1 of the ALCS.
In their one regular season showdown with Verlander, the Rangers only managed two runs, and Verlander pitched a complete game. Alexi Ogando was on the mound for Texas, and he went seven innings allowing only two hits, before the bullpen came in and cleaned up the rest.
So it’s not like Verlander didn’t pitch well, the Rangers just pitched better.
That will have to be the case again, but the Ranger starters are still looking for their first quality start of the postseason.
It’ll be up to C.J. Wilson to try and get back into his groove, and I suspect he will.
If he does, and the Ranger bats can get a few runs of Justin (especially if they can get to Detroit’s depleted bullpen), then we’ll be celebrating a second consecutive Rangers’ World Series appearance late into the night.
Or at least I will be.