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10/13/11 9:50 PM ET
Sixth sense: Fortuitous play ignites rally
Miggy's grounder as part of Tigers' natural cycle forces Game 6
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
DETROIT -- The poster on the wall, a relic from the 1984 World Series, is of a nighttime Tiger Stadium, illuminated by a lightning bolt out of the dark skies. The legend below that scene reads: "Anno Domini ... 1984." It is a masterful piece of art, carrying the tacit message that those Tigers -- Sparky Anderson's Bless You Boys -- had divine intervention on their way to completing a magical season with a World Series victory. The spirits returned Thursday night, a little north of Michigan and Trumbull Avenue, perhaps guided by the fingertips of Anderson and Ernie Harwell. They showed up in the bottom of the sixth inning at Comerica Park, with Game 5 of the American League Championship Series tied up. They intervened with Miguel Cabrera's grounder to third baseman Adrian Beltre, ready to turn it into a double play to negate Ryan Raburn's leadoff single off C.J. Wilson. "I was right in front of the ball," said Beltre, who was playing the line, perfectly positioned. "I was playing him to pull. The pitch was in. The ball was right at me. There was no doubt it was going to be a double play." Then, on the downward flight from its last hop, the ball caromed off the near left corner of the third-base bag. The ball slithered into the left-field corner for a go-ahead double. The bag was on its way to Detroit manager Jim Leyland's office. "I have that bag in my office right now," Leyland said soon after the Tigers had closed out the 7-5 victory that narrowed the Rangers' lead to 3-2 and shipped the ALCS back to Texas. "And that will be in my memorabilia room at some point in my life, I can promise you." "It happens, not very often," said Detroit third-base coach Gene Lamont. "Just lucky it hit kind of the front [of the bag] and skipped up. If it just hit on the top, he would've probably caught it. "Sometimes," Lamont added, "you need a little luck -- sometimes a lot of luck." "Yeah, I saw that. And I was so happy, because I know Beltre is playing the line," Cabrera said. "It was lucky like that. We needed 'lucky,' you know." "Lucky" or "divine" wasn't yet done with the Tigers. When Victor Martinez watched that paranormal double from the on-deck circle, his only thought was to "come to the plate only worried about a good at-bat to try to get Miguel to third base with one out." Martinez's deed exceeded his greed: He sliced an opposite-field drive off the left-handed Wilson that landed inches between the right-field foul line and right fielder Nelson Cruz's desperate dive. So Martinez himself wound up on third base, with none out. Reacting to a question in the Tigers' clubhouse, Cabrera poked his head above the media mob circling him and called out to Martinez, six lockers to the right. "Victor! You hit a triple today?!," said Cabrera. "Believe it, baby! Yeah," Martinez replied, before lowering his voice to tell reporters around him, "Do I think of a triple? Never. For me to get a triple, Nelson Cruz, he'd have to have a heart attack." The triple was the fourth of Martinez's career, a career of 1,173 regular and postseason games. "Fate is finally smiling on us," said left-hander Phil Coke, who gamely closed out the victory. "Seems everything that's been close hasn't been going our way. For that [play] to happen, and for Martinez's ball to be an inch fair with Cruz diving for it ... that was awesome." The Tigers' gutty perseverance with a dugout of lame or limited players has been well-documented, to the point they're about to be nominated for a Nobel Prize for Persistence. Was that tenacity justly rewarded by some breaks? "Definitely," Martinez said. "We haven't been getting stuff our way. So I think we got one, and we used that." They weren't done using it until Delmon Young followed Martinez's triple with a two-run homer, his second of the game. Yep, the Tigers' first four batters of the inning went single, double, triple, homer -- the first natural cycle in a postseason history of more than 1,400 games. The Tigers have been in 81 of those. When Raburn added a seventh-inning clout, they had four home runs in one of them for the first time. "We've been looking for a good run," Cabrera said. "I hope we've got it going now. We'll get some rest and play hard on Saturday [in Game 6]." "Hopefully some momentum can swing for us," Young said. "Yes, I think the pressure now is on Texas," Martinez said. "We got nothing to lose. They still have control. This is the fun part. We'll just go out there in Game 6, play hard and see what happens." You might again have to see it to not believe it.