Tigers Bats Come Alive, Force Return to Texas

Delmon Young belted a pair of home runs to go with blasts from Alex Avila and Ramon Santiago, while Justin Verlander tossed a season-high 133 pitches to save the bullpen and force Game 6.

Almost the way Jim Leyland drew it up.

According to the Tigers' manager, Justin Verlander was going deep into Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday, and Phil Coke would finish up.

What about Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde?

"I'm not pitching either one of them," Leyland said. "Valverde's going to say that he's OK, but I'm not pitching him. We're going to get somebody hurt if we're not careful. We've got a guy that saved 51 games in a row, and you've got an option on him. I mean, people can bark, but they're pitching on fumes and heart right now."

What that means is that following Detroit's 7-4 win over Texas and a day off Friday, Leyland will have his two back-end relievers operating on two days of rest.

Well earned, too, after both worked three games in three days. Benoit had 63 pitches in four innings while Valverde had 61 in 4 1/3. Leyland also named Al Alburquerque as a pitcher not available Thursday.

Verlander worked 7 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and four runs while throwing a season-high 133 pitches. Coke went the last 1 2/3 innings. Maybe that was so Leyland's pre-game prophecy wouldn't come true.

Coke, Leyland said, could work two innings "if he has to. I hope he doesn't have to. If he has to, we're probably not going to win."

So Detroit will go to Texas having Leyland's No. 3 and No. 2 starters, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, lined up for the sixth and possible seventh game.

"One game at a time, that's the only focus you can have," Verlander said. "We won Game 5 in New York, that was a must-win game. This was a must-win game. We have two more going into Texas, we've got our guys going, Max and Doug."

Leyland has consistently laid out his postseason plans to the public ahead of time. Most have regarded when Verlander would pitch.

"It's what we said before the game so it gave everybody a chance to get their second-guessing ready about it," Leyland said. "That's just the way it had to be. We talked about it before the game and did exactly what we felt we had to do to give ourselves any chance to win the series."

Four home runs and a fortuitous bounce off the third base bag combined with the pitching to put Detroit on a plane for a Saturday night game in Texas.

"What I like the most about this is I know the Texas Rangers respect us and we respect the Texas Rangers," Leyland said. "I know they believe we're a good club, a really good club. And we know that they're a really good club.

"If you see the injuries and everything and the way these guys are playing, how could you not be satisfied with this? I have no problems no matter how this turns out. But we're going to keep playing. We've done that all along."


--RHP Justin Verlander thinks he's perfectly positioned for a possible relief appearance in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series. His manager has him poised for Game 1 of the World Series. Verlander admitted he struggled with his rhythm for nearly all of his career-high 133 pitches but managed to pitch through 7 1/3 innings and gain credit for Detroit's 7-5 Game 5 victory over Texas. "It started to feel better at the end," Verlander said. "I made that one mistake to (RF Nelson) Cruz, and he did what he's done the whole series. Thankfully our guys battled all night, got me a bit of a cushion so that I could continue to go out there and pound the strike zone and try to get us as many innings as I could." Verlander struck out eight and allowed eight hits, but his pitch count got up early because Texas was making him pay for his mistakes. "The reason my velocity was down the last couple of innings, besides the last couple pitches, I was trying to get deeper in the game, trying to force some early action," Verlander said. "I was trying to hit my spots, and that's when I really felt like I started to find my rhythm a little bit. Hopefully that carries over. Hopefully I have another start -- Game 1 of the World Series."

--C Alex Avila gave hope for a modest offensive revival with a solo home run that negated a first-inning Texas run. Avila entered the game with just one hit in each of the first two series, but he went the other way with a fastball and lifted it over the left-field fence to square the score, 1-1. He's been playing with a sore left knee and possible hand and ankle problems.

--LF Delmon Young must be feeling better. Young, not even on the initial AL Championship Series roster, slammed two home runs to drive in three runs with his best swings since hurting his left oblique in the final game of the divisional round. Young went down and yanked a low inside fastball over the left-field fence to give Detroit a 2-1 lead in the fourth. He capped a natural team cycle with a two-run homer off a high fastball in the sixth. That four-run inning gave the Tigers a 6-2 edge, and Young was removed for defensive purposes. There were no signs of pain in Young's swing, and his throwing was better.

--1B Miguel Cabrera got another key hit for the Tigers. The AL batting champion smoked an RBI double down the third-base line that hit the bag and bounced over the head of 3B Adrian Beltre, who was positioned perfectly. "We just got lucky right there," Cabrera said. Manager Jim Leyland said, "I have that bag in my office right now. And that will be in my memorabilia room at some point in my life, I can promise you." A leadoff single by RF/LF Ryan Raburn meant Texas had to pitch to Cabrera, and he didn't miss the pitch he had to hit.

--LHP Phil Coke struggled through the ninth inning but still managed to get the final out for his first save of the postseason. Coke was brought in after RHP Justin Verlander gave up a two-run home run to RF Nelson Cruz with one out in the eighth. Manager Jim Leyland had told Coke of his plans before the game. "I knew what was going to happen ahead of time," Coke said. "I knew Verlander was going deep. I didn't know I was going in in the eighth inning. I thought he was going to cruise through eight. I was just really happy to get the job done." He got two quick outs to end the eighth and two quick ones to begin the ninth. He gave up a double, RBI single and walk before getting a forceout at second to end the game.

--RF/LF Ryan Raburn is turning into a productive No. 2 hitter in manager Jim Leyland's revamped lineup. Raburn singled to start a single-double-triple-home run cycle by Detroit (the first in postseason play by a team) in the four-run sixth. He hit a solo home run, his second of the League Championship Series, in the seventh. Raburn is getting regular playing time because of the broken ankle suffered by RF Magglio Ordonez.

--DH Victor Martinez had one of the game's bigger at-bats, reaching for an outside pitch and driving it into the right-field corner for an RBI triple in Detroit's four-run sixth. Martinez was clearly trying to advance 1B Miguel Cabrera, who had an RBI double, to third. It was his first triple in the last three years.

--RHP Joaquin Benoit pitched in three games in three days and was not going to be allowed to pitch in a fourth straight. "He's not available," manager Jim Leyland said before the game. Benoit has compiled four scoreless innings in three days with 63 pitches thrown.

--RHP Jose Valverde was declared unavailable by manager Jim Leyland after pitching in three games in as many days. Valverde threw 4 1/3 innings in the three games, going unscored upon until allowing four runs Wednesday. He threw 61 pitches in those 4 1/3 innings. "I'm not pitching either one of them," Leyland said of his two late inning relievers, Valverde and Joaquin Benoit. "Valverde's going to say that he's OK, but I'm not pitching him. We're going to get somebody hurt if we're not careful. We've got a guy that saved 51 games in a row, and you've got an option on him. I mean, people can bark, but they're pitching on fumes and heart right now."

BY THE NUMBERS: 133 -- Pitches thrown by RHP Justin Verlander, his high for a year in which none of his regular-season starts was less than 100 pitches.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Defy them some more. Keep defying the odds, that's what we got to do. We didn't come all this way for nothing." -- LHP Phil Coke on Detroit overcoming Texas to shave a game off a 3-1 deficit and send the series back to Texas for Game 6 on Saturday night.

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