After winning the first two games of the AL championship series, the Texas Rangers head to Detroit with the right man on the mound to help pad their advantage.
Four innings after he tied the game with a solo home run, Nelson Cruz(notes) hit the first walkoff grand slam in postseason history in the 11th to give Texas a 7-3 victory in Game 2 on Monday. Cruz, who homered for the decisive run in a 3-2 victory in Game 1, is 4 for 7 with six RBIs in the series.
“It’s special,” Cruz said. “When you get a chance to get a W, that’s the most important thing.”
Winners of five straight since losing 9-0 in the division series opener versus Tampa Bay on Sept. 30, the Rangers are filled with confidence as they head to Detroit in a comfortable situation.
“It’s amazing when you play around those group of guys,” Cruz said. “Everybody is pulling the same way.”
Though Texas dropped four of six at Detroit during the season, it should feel confident with Lewis (1-0, 1.50 ERA) taking the ball.
The right-hander allowed only a solo homer and struck out six in six innings of a 4-3 win at Tampa in Game 3 to improve to 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in five postseason starts.
“It’s the comfortability aspect of things,” Lewis said. “Basically the more you do it, the more you go out there, the more you understand what it takes to perform and be on that stage.”
Lewis went 0-1 with a 15.95 ERA in two starts against the Tigers this season. He allowed five runs, 10 hits and walked three in four innings while not factoring in the decision of a 6-5 loss at Comerica Park on Aug. 2.
Acquired from Seattle at the trade deadline, Fister went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 11 appearances - 10 starts - for the Tigers. In his first outing with his new team Aug. 3, Fister allowed three runs in seven innings of a 5-4 win over Texas at Comerica Park.
The right-hander went 4-0 with a 0.98 ERA in five home starts for the Tigers.
“Obviously, there’s a huge fan base in Detroit, which is terrific to play in front of,” said Fister, 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in two starts versus Texas this season. “It’s been very prevalent. It’s something that gives you chills.”
Fister gave up six runs and struck out six in 4 2-3 innings of a 9-3 loss at New York when Game 1 of the ALDS resumed Oct. 1. However, he yielded only one run in five innings of a 3-2 victory at Yankee Stadium in Game 5 on Thursday.
Though his team is down 0-2 and Cruz is 7 for 14 with a home run and two doubles against him, Fister does not feel any added pressure taking the mound in this must-win scenario.
“It can’t change the approach for the pitcher at all,” Fister said. “It doesn’t change the mindset, it doesn’t change how you attack hitters.”
Ryan Raburn(notes) provided all of Detroit’s Game 2 scoring with a three-run homer in the third inning as the Tigers left 13 runners on base. Detroit is 2 for 19 with runners in scoring position in the series.
“It’s been a great two games. It didn’t go the right way, obviously,” manager Jim Leyland said. “(The Rangers) earned it, and we didn’t quite get it done. We haven’t been able to come up with any big hits.”
Added to the postseason roster before Game 2 after Magglio Ordonez(notes) was lost for the playoffs with an ankle injury, Detroit’s Delmon Young(notes) went 0 for 4 on Monday. Young—6 for 19 with three homers in the ALDS—returned to action after he was expected to miss this series with an oblique injury, but he isn’t in the lineup for Game 3.
Tigers catcher Alex Avila(notes), 2 for 25 with 10 strikeouts in the postseason, is 3 for 9 with two homers against Lewis. Victor Martinez(notes) (5 for 11), Miguel Cabrera(notes) (5 for 12) and leadoff hitter Austin Jackson(notes) (6 for 15, one homer) have also had success when facing Lewis.