The Texas Rangers haven't been short on late-game heroics in the past two postseasons, but the latest string of clutch hitting has become a one-man show, and Nelson Cruz is the star. After a walk-off grand slam gave the Rangers a 2-0 series lead, his three-run homer in the top of the 11th sealed the win in Game 4. The Rangers now possess a commanding 3-1 series lead.
The Detroit Tigers will turn to the game's ultimate stopper, Justin Verlander, to try to stave off elimination. He wasn't particularly sharp in Game 1, but at home and in the ultimate must-win scenario, it's hard to fathom the game's best pitcher doesn't bring his best stuff Thursday night.
No matter how well Verlander pitches, the Tigers still need to score some runs with a banged-up lineup that has failed to get going outside of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Delmon Young looked awful in Game 4, and All-Star Alex Avila has been completely absent offensively all series long. Perhaps most worrisome for the Tigers is the Rangers' four-run 11th came against Jose Valverde, who's been a stabilizing force at the back of the bullpen, despite, well, the shakiness.
The Rangers feast on shakiness. The lineup doesn't quit, especially when Michael Young and Mike Napoli are hitting, as they did in Game 4. We'll see if this persists, because if any pitcher in the league can silence the deafening cracks of Ranger bats, it's one who will be taking the hill Thursday afternoon in Detroit.
Game Date/Time: October 13, 4:19 p.m. EDT
Stadium: Comerica Park, Detroit, Mich.
Texas Rangers: C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA)
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40 ERA)