Tuesday night's Game 3 of the Tigers/Rangers ALCS was as close to being a must-win for Detroit as you can get without a game actually being a must-win. Already behind two games to none in the series, the Tigers couldn't afford to lose again, as doing so would mean almost certain death.
Problem: three batters into Tuesday night's Game 3, the Tigers were already behind by a run, and the Rangers didn't have any outs. Three consecutive singles - including a weak roller and a blooper - put Texas in the lead, and silenced the Comerica Park crowd before it could even really get energized.
I don't know if falling behind early in unlucky fashion is more or less inauspicious than falling behind early in convincing fashion, but it was most definitely an inauspicious start, given that the Tigers have had trouble scoring runs all month.
Thankfully for Detroit, that run was all the Rangers would manage until scoring another in the eighth. And in between the Rangers scoring those two runs, the Tigers scored five of them. As such, the Tigers won Game 3 5-2, and gave us a series.
I don't know which player was the star of the game, but my best guess is Doug Fister. Fister got the start in a crucial situation, and Fister pitched his ass off. He allowed that early run, sure, but Josh Hamilton's RBI single was less than well-struck, and after that, he cruised. In the end he gave up two runs in 7⅓ innings, throwing 73 of 102 pitches for strikes. Against Fister, eight Rangers reached base.
So Fister kept things steady on the mound. The Tigers still had to deliver at the plate, though, lest they suffer a heartbreaking defeat, and they began delivering in the bottom of the fourth. They stranded two runners against Colby Lewis in the second and one in the third, but in the fourth, Victor Martinez led off by ripping a fastball out to right field for a game-tying solo homer.
Of course, Martinez injured his oblique swinging. That's just the way things are going for the Tigers these days. But he tied the game, and not long after, the Tigers took the lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Miguel Cabrera batted with two outs and runners on the corners. Cabrera had heard some boos earlier on when he tapped back to the mound to end an inning, but this time, he got an 0-2 outside fastball from Lewis and rode it down the right field line for a run-scoring double. With that swing, Detroit went in front 2-1, and though they'd leave the bases loaded, it was just nice to have a lead.
In the sixth, Fister pitched around a runner in scoring position. Then in the bottom half, Jhonny Peralta provided some instant insurance when he drilled Lewis' first pitch over the left field fence. That made it 3-1, and the Tigers went ahead 4-1 later in the frame when Austin Jackson singled home Andy Dirks with a ground ball right back up the middle.
The bottom of the seventh saw Miguel Cabrera pile on, as he knocked a hanging Koji Uehara splitter out for the Tigers' third solo homer of the contest. At 5-1, with two innings to go, the Tigers knew they were in an excellent position.
And they didn't have too much trouble closing the game out. The Rangers chipped away with a run in the eighth, but only one guy reached base. And Jose Valverde worked around a leadoff double to throw a scoreless ninth and pick up the three-run save.
So the series is now 2-1 Texas, continuing at 4:19pm ET Wednesday with Matt Harrison and Rick Porcello starting Game 4. Justin Verlander will be the starter on deck, so one imagines the Tigers feel a hell of a lot more confident now than they did just a few short hours ago.