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ALCS Gm4: Miggy's two-run double puts the Tigers up

DETROIT -- Another dramatic swing from Brandon Inge brought a sellout crowd at Comerica Park to its feet.

Another big swing from Nelson Cruz sent them home.

Another close win for the Rangers in this American League Championship Series has the Tigers in a corner.

"We battled as long as we could," Inge said after Cruz's three-run shot punctuated a four-run 11th inning in a 7-3 Tigers loss in Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday. "It just didn't work out for us."

They've battled longer than many expected in these games. They battled deep into the night in what was scheduled as a day game. The plot was dramatic, but the ending was familiar.

"It's one of the best games I've ever been involved in," manager Jim Leyland said. "Great plays by both teams. Just didn't come out the right way."

The Tigers have a one-run defeat and two extra-inning losses on their mark through four games of the ALCS. They count all the same as two blowouts they suffered to the Yankees on their way through the AL Division Series.

A healthier lineup and a deeper bullpen have so far won out.

"The more you play games like this, the more respect you gain for the other team," Rangers first baseman Michael Young said. "The Tigers have a great team, they're playing hard and their pitching has been great. It's been a real nail-biter, but a lot of fun."

One more loss, no matter how big or small, and the AL Central champions -- the hottest team in baseball in September -- are heading home. With ace Justin Verlander on the mound, the Tigers can at least like their chances to send the series back to Texas for a possible Game 6 on Saturday night.

Get there, and they'll have Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, their two hottest pitchers this postseason, lined up. But starting pitching hasn't been their problem this series. Hitting has.

"It's the name of the game up to this point," said Rick Porcello, who shut down the Rangers' potent offense for five innings before it broke out for three runs in the sixth to erase a 2-0 Tigers lead. "They get clutch hits when they need to."

Out of 32 teams to face 3-1 deficits in the LCS, six have come back to win it, including four in the ALCS. Among the similar comebacks in the World Series were the 1968 Tigers, who won Game 5 at home before taking the next two at Busch Stadium to topple the Cardinals behind Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich.

Bottom line: It's doable, but the Tigers need that big hit. They finally got one from Inge. They needed one more.

Their chances at least look better than the possibility of Inge hitting an 0-2 fastball at 98 mph from Tigers killer Alexi Ogando into the left-field seats. Only one of Inge's 139 regular-season homers have come out of an 0-2 hole. But then, these situations seem fit for Inge this year.

He's no longer a big home run hitter, but his dingers have all been big. Two of his three this season were walk-off shots. The other came in his first game back from Triple-A Toledo in August.

Ogando was one pitch away from sending the Tigers down in order in the seventh and handing a one-run lead to the Rangers' dominant late-inning duo of Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz. Inge had taken a 98-mph fastball and a slider on opposite corners. He had geared up for another fastball, but he wasn't expecting it over the middle.

"He throws 100 mph," Inge said. "I'm thinking, 'If he throws me another curveball, maybe I can foul it off, but don't let him beat you with the fastball.'"

With that, a game that seemed headed out of the Tigers' reach was deadlocked, and a series was up for grabs. When Victor Martinez followed a one-out, bases-empty intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera with a single through the right side, it was within their reach.

Detroit got a fly ball to the middle depths of right field from a hobbled Delmon Young, who had struck out in his past two plate appearances. With Alex Avila mired in a 2-for-32 slump on deck, the Tigers took their shot.

"I thought it was a great decision to send him," Leyland said. "If the throw is offline, he makes it. If it's not, he's out. Other than Austin Jackson, I don't know that anybody would have made it if he threw it on the money."

Cruz fired a strike, then the 270-pound Cabrera -- whose two-run double accounted for Detroit's first two runs -- tried to deliver one on catcher Mike Napoli.

"I tried to make something happen right there," Cabrera said. "It was like a reaction play."

Napoli held on for the out. Once he did, the Rangers were confident they could outlast the Tigers.

"Crucial time of the game," Napoli said. "Nellie gave me a good throw, gave me enough time to where I can brace and just get low. Just a great play."

Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde held down the Rangers as long as they could, but as Leyland admitted, they're "both running on fumes and heart right now."

It was enough for Benoit to send the game into extra innings. Once Josh Hamilton's double leading off Valverde's second inning of work set up the middle of the order for damage, heart couldn't get him through it.

Valverde continued Michael Young's postseason slump with a strikeout, but after an intentional walk to Adrian Beltre, Napoli lined a pitch through the middle, allowing Hamilton to score easily. Cruz then pounced on a fastball inside for his fourth home run of the ALCS.

"You can't make a mistake with these guys," Valverde said. "I threw my best pitch, and [Cruz] got it. There's nothing you can do."

If the Tigers can keep pitching, they have a chance. They need one more big swing, three different times.

If Inge can do it, maybe somebody else can, too. Comments