For the players involved, the more urgent question was, What just happened? The Tigers led for the bulk of the game, until Cruz’s first home run tied it at 3 in the seventh inning. Both teams loaded the bases without scoring in the ninth. The Rangers’ bullpen pitched 81
3 innings, the first 41
3 from Scott Feldman, who allowed one hit and struck out four.
“I can honestly say that was the probably the coolest game I’ve ever been apart of,” Feldman said. “When I got done even watching that game, I thought my beard was going to turn gray.”
And that was the winning team. The Tigers played with one of their outfielders, Magglio Ordonez, out of the season and another, Delmon Young, back on the roster with an oblique injury after he’d been presumed out for the series. They found solace in how close they played the Rangers, in opportunities created but missed, and in the comfort of returning to Comerica Park on Tuesday night.
“That’s why I don’t think you’re going to see us panic,” starter Max Scherzer said. “The mind-set doesn’t change.”
Each team could have ended the game several times before the 11th, when the Rangers did. Michael Young led off against Perry with a sharp single to left, past the dive of third baseman Don Kelly, who had been playing on the line to prevent a double. Adrian Beltre ripped another single. With two on and no outs, Mike Napoli smacked a line drive to right-center field. Andy Dirks sprinted to his left, and the ball grazed off his glove.
The mistake gave Perry no margin for error: “He can’t pitch the guy the way he wants,” Dirks said.
It was the wrong guy. Last year, Cruz hit six home runs in the postseason, and already he had hit two in this series. Cruz missed the first two weeks of September with a left hamstring strain, and after he returned he hit .190. Even as he dropped to seventh in the Rangers’ lineup, though, he felt his swing coming back.
In the 11th, Cruz fell behind 0-1 and then crushed a foul ball into the upper deck. He had done the same before his homer in the seventh. “I know my hands are quick, and I can wait longer,” Cruz said.