Nelson Cruz's Walkoff Grand Slam Wins ALCS Game 2 For Rangers

Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers hits a home run in the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Game 2 of the 2011 ALCS, which began in sunshine on a warm Texas afternoon and over the course of four hours and 25 minutes melted well into evening, was filled with outstanding pitching performances and punctuated by home runs. Early on, the Detroit Tigers got a three-run blast from Ryan Raburn, and the Texas Rangers later tied the game with a home run off the left-field foul pole by Nelson Cruz, and then Cruz won the game in the 11th with the first walkoff grand slam in postseason history. The Rangers have a 2-0 lead in the series with their 7-3 win.

Texas starter Derek Holland got into early trouble by seemingly walking everyone wearing a uniform reading "Detroit", and he was finally yanked by manager Ron Washington after Raburn's homer gave Detroit a 3-2 lead. Scott Feldman then entered the game and shut the Tigers down for 4⅓ innings. Feldman allowed just one hit and struck out four. 

Texas took a 2-0 lead in the first inning off Max Scherzer, on a single by Elvis Andrus and doubles from Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre. After that, Scherzer settled down and pitched into the seventh inning, allowing just two more hits -- but the second was the homer by Cruz that tied the score at 3 in the seventh. Scherzer was taken out; relievers Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit quelled any further Rangers rally.

The Rangers appeared to get the benefit of a questionable call in the third inning. Holland threw a 1-2 curveball that bounced near Victor Martinez's foot. Martinez danced out of the way as the ball got away from Mike Napoli and started heading toward first base as if he'd been hit. But when the ball got away, Miguel Cabrera, who had doubled, started running and didn't stop until he slid into the plate untouched.

After a number of umpire conferences with both managers involved and some embarrassed throat-clearing, it was ruled a HBP. Martinez had sold it too well to the umpires, apparently; replays were inconclusive as to whether the ball had actually hit him. Cabrera was sent back to second and Martinez awarded first base; it was all rendered moot when Raburn scored both runners and himself with his home run.

For a time, it appeared that home run would be the difference in the game. Raburn later made a catch in right field on a sinking line drive hit by Michael Young. That might not sound like much, but there were Rangers on first and second at the time. Ordonez, out for the rest of the playoffs with an ankle injury, would likely not have caught up with the ball; had Young's ball fallen in, two runs might have scored and the Rangers could have had a big inning.

In the eighth inning, Andrus led off with a walk. He took off for second on a hit-and-run attempt, but when Hamilton hit a sharp line drive right at third baseman Brandon Inge, Andrus was easily doubled off first base. The Tigers threatened in the ninth when Don Kelly doubled into the right-field corner with two out, but Ramon Santiago was held at third, and Andrus caught Martinez's short fly ball ... which nearly popped out of his glove. Detroit closer Jose Valverde got himself into a horrible  ninth-inning jam when he loaded the bases with none out on a double, an intentional walk and hitting Cruz, but got out of it on a short fly to left and a 3-2-3 double play. Relievers from both teams held the hitters in check until Ryan Perry loaded the bases with none out in the 11th, leading to Cruz's slam.

The series continues in Detroit on Tuesday, with Colby Lewis of the Rangers facing the Tigers' Doug Fister.

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