MLB Playoffs: Nelson Cruz Walk-off Grand Slam Should Spark Texas to World Series

Andrew JordanSenior Writer IOctober 11, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 10:  Elvis Andrus #1 (C) and the Texas Rangers rush the field after the walk off grand slam home run of Nelson Cruz #17 in the bottom of the 11th inning to win Game Two of the American League Championship Series 7-3 against the Detroit Tigers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 10, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

After falling to the Giants in last year's World Series, the Rangers bounced back with another division title and took care of the Rays in the ALDS.

The Rangers' play has not faltered in the ALCS against the Tigers. After holding on in a long Game 1, despite numerous rain delays, the Rangers came back and beat the Tigers on a Nelson Cruz walk-off grand slam.

With a 2-0 lead in the series, the Rangers will play Game 3 tonight in Comerica Park, with a chance to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

In Game 3, the Tigers will have Doug Fister pitching, who was 4-1 at Comerica Park this year with a sparkling 1.61 ERA and a .193 batting average against. Meanwhile, the Rangers will pitch Colby Lewis, who has never even won a game at Comerica Park. 

Despite the fact that the Tigers will be playing at home—where they are 16-4 against the Rangers during the last five years—this series is truly the Rangers' series to lose.

Regardless of the stats, the Rangers have momentum on their side at this moment, and that momentum should be present tonight in Detroit.

The Rangers have a pitcher in Lewis, who, despite never winning a game in Detroit, has also won all five of his postseason starts.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have Fister. Even though he did win Game 5 of the ALDS, he still has a losing record against the Rangers in his career and has not looked as dominant as he was once the Tigers acquired him from Seattle.

The Rangers will turn to Colby Lewis to have another great postseason start
The Rangers will turn to Colby Lewis to have another great postseason startMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Rangers also will have the advantage of making the Tigers bullpen throw nine innings through two games, after getting used extensively throughout their series with the Yankees.

Now, the Rangers bullpen has also been heavily used (8.1 innings today alone), but the Rangers have the benefit of having had several days off between the end of their ALDS and the ALCS.

The bullpen will also get relief knowing that Lewis has pitched at least five innings in all of his postseason starts.

But, even if the Rangers are unable to take a 3-0 lead in the series, they still have several other advantages.

The first one deals with the lack of Justin Verlander in Game 4. Already Jim Leyland has commented on Verlander's next start, saying, "He's pitching Game 5... That's a slam dunk. That is the end of the conversation."

Considering that the Tigers won't have to face Verlander until Game 5 (assuming there is a Game 5), the Rangers will see Game 4's matchup against Rick Porcello as a must-win game. Porcello was unconvincing against the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALDS and went 3-3 with a 5.19 ERA in August and September.

Texas has also won four games in Detroit over the last two years. That might not seem that much, but considering the Rangers had only won one game in Comerica Park in the three years before 2010, the Rangers look like they are getting better footing in the Motor City.

The Rangers are prepared to win in Arlington if they cannot finish the job in Detroit
The Rangers are prepared to win in Arlington if they cannot finish the job in DetroitKevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Even if the Rangers fail to do any significant damage against the Tigers in Detroit, their 52-29 home record (which was tied for the best in the American League) can always do damage in Arlington.

The Rangers offense has continued to show us that a different player can step up on any given day, which has been invaluable for Texas so far.

Finally, considering the stat that teams who go down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series have gone on to win their series only 13 of 51 times, the Rangers should win this series.


For more baseball news and opinion, follow me on Twitter! @Andrew_Jordan