Rangers 7, Tigers 3(11)

The Detroit Tigers failed to take advantage of some risky

strategy by the Texas Rangers with a chance to even up the AL

championship series.

Instead, Detroit is on the brink of elimination after a 7-3,

11-inning loss in Game 4 on Wednesday night.

MVP candidate Justin Verlander gives the Tigers their last

chance to extend the best-of-seven series and pack their bags for

another game on the road.

”You wouldn’t rather have anybody out there other than Justin

Verlander,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ”If you win that

game, all of a sudden it gets a little hairy again.”

Texas manager Ron Washington chose to intentionally walk Miguel

Cabrera with nobody on and one out in the eighth inning of a tied

game. Thanks to a strong throw to home plate by Nelson Cruz the

tactic worked wonderfully for the defending AL champions, who are

up 3-1 in the series.

”It almost didn’t,” Washington said. ”But we tried to pitch

around Cabrera twice and he got us. So, this time I wasn’t taking

any chance and it almost came back and bit me.”

It looked as if the Tigers were going to pounce on the rare

opportunity when Victor Martinez followed with a single and Cabrera

advanced to third.

But Delmon Young hit a fly to medium right field and Cruz

unleashed a throw that was on target. Catcher Mike Napoli received

the on-hop throw with plenty of time as Cabrera lumbered home from

third base. Cabrera was out easily, barreling over Napoli to no

avail.

Leyland didn’t second-guess the decision by third base coach

Gene Lamont to send Cabrera home.

”I thought it was a great decision,” Leyland said. ”If the

throw is off line, he makes it.”

Leyland also didn’t question his choice of keeping the husky

Cabrera in the game instead of using a quicker pinch-runner with 90

feet separating the Tigers from a 2-all tie in the ALCS.

”I don’t know that anybody would have made it if he threw it on

the money,” Leyland said.

And, not many managers would’ve made the move Washington did

with a playoff game hanging in the balance.

The last time a team intentionally walked the potential winning

or tying run with nobody on and at least one out in the eighth

inning or later in a playoff game was Oct. 22, 2009, according to

STATS LLC.

That’s when the Los Angeles Angels gave Yankees star Alex

Rodriguez a free pass with two outs in the ninth inning and a

one-run lead in Game 5 of the ALCS. It worked for the Angels, with

some drama, when Nick Swisher hit an inning-ending pop up with the

bases loaded.

Detroit’s hopes now rest with Verlander, who will pitch in a

game scheduled to start Thursday afternoon at home, against C.J.

Wilson of the Rangers.

If Verlander helps the Tigers win, the series will shift to

Texas. If not, the AL Central division champions will head to their

offseason homes wondering what they could’ve done differently.

Leyland insisted he did the right thing by putting closer Jose

Valverde in the 3-all game in the 10th inning, which he got out of

perfectly and efficiently, and leaving him in for the 11th when

Cruz hit a no-doubt, three-run homer to essentially seal the

series-tilting victory.

Valverde has pitched more than one inning just twice this year,

both times in the ALCS, with mixed results.

He gave up only one hit and one walk over two innings of the

11-inning loss in Game 2 and was tagged for four runs on three hits

and a walk Wednesday.

What’s clear, though, is Valverde struggles in non-save

situations. He has a 6.83 ERA with five homers allowed in 29 such

outings this year. And he has a 0.52 ERA with just two homers given

up in 52 save opportunities, according to STATS LLC.

”Well, we were down two games to one – you have to give it your

best shot,” Leyland explained. ”That was our best shot.

”Hopefully the big guy (Verlander) can do it,” Leyland

said.