Rangers overcome rain, Tigers to take 1-0 lead

Posted Saturday, Oct. 08, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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UPDATE: The threat of rain tonight and questionable field conditions have led to the postponement of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series tonight at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The game will be played at 3:19 p.m. Monday, and Game 3 will be Tuesday in Detroit.

The report on Game 1 appears below:

ARLINGTON -- By the time rain halted Game 1 of the American League Championship Series for a second time Saturday night, the eight members of the Texas Rangers' bullpen knew that the outcome of the opener would be determined by how well they performed.

The situation wasn't anything foreign to them, and they didn't have to talk amongst themselves to get their minds set on the task ahead of them.

They're relievers. Getting outs in tight games is what they do.

But the efforts of five relievers, starting with Michael Gonzalez for the biggest out of the game and ending with Neftali Feliz for the final out, preserved a 3-2 victory over Detroit in a game that was halted for 1 hour, 50 minutes.

“It's one of those things when you have to stay focused in, and having a reliever's mentality, it's not that hard,” Gonzalez said. “You just kind of look at each other, and let each other know that you have confidence in whoever's going to go in there.

“We knew it was going to be our game, so we just had to bring in our A game. It worked for us today.”

All three Rangers runs, including a fourth-inning solo homer by Nelson Cruz, came against Cy Young shoo-in Justin Verlander. The right-hander was limited to four innings by the rain, but he and the Tigers trailed 3-0 when the game was stopped for the first time.

David Murphy had an RBI triple in the second, and Ian Kinsler followed two batters later with a two-out run-scoring single. Cruz started the fourth with his seventh career postseason home run, a Rangers franchise record.

Verlander, who won 24 games in the regular season, needed 82 pitches to complete four innings.

“You're just battling up there against a guy like that,” Murphy said. “We didn't have a whole lot of hits against him, but our at-bats were awesome. Kinsler set the tone early.”

Rangers starter C.J. Wilson had been fortunate to get out of the first two innings without allowing any runs.

Detroit collected two one-out singles and a walk in the first before Magglio Ordonez bounced into a double play, which Tigers manager Jim Leyland said was a “huge key.”

The Tigers got two more one-out hits in the second before coming up empty, and Wilson erased a leadoff walk in the third with a strikeout of Miguel Cabrera and a double play by Victor Martinez.

After striking out the side in the fourth, Wilson hit the mound in the fifth as rain started to fall. He got two strikes on Ramon Santiago, but the second baseman doubled to left.

Wilson threw one pitch to Brandon Inge before crew chief Tim Welke stopped the game and called for the grounds crew to cover the field.

The teams would play for 13 minutes once play resumed at 9:23 p.m., and they were productive minutes for the Tigers. After Inge grounded out on Wilson's first pitch, Denton native Austin Jackson doubled home Santiago, and Ryan Raburn and Cabrera walked to fill the bases.

Wilson's first two pitches to the next hitter, Martinez, were strikes, but the third pitch was inside and skipped away from Napoli for a wild pitch that allowed Jackson to score.

Martinez tapped back to the mound for the second out, and Ordonez was walked with first base open to set up Wilson for a lefty-lefty matchup with Avila.

Rain, though, started falling heavily, and Welke quickly halted the game for a second time.

“It's frustrating,” Wilson said. “I just didn't have the control when I came back that I needed.”

But the Rangers still had their left-vs.-left matchup when play resumed at 10:45 p.m. after a 69-minute delay, but it was Gonzalez who would face Avila.

The Tigers' All-Star catcher grounded out on the second pitch as the Rangers escaped.

“That was probably the biggest out of the game,” Kinsler said. “It set up our bullpen for the rest of the game.”

Rick Porcello, scheduled to start Game 4, relieved Verlander with two scoreless innings, but Alexi Ogando matched him.

The only Rangers pitcher to beat the Tigers during the regular season, Ogando retired six of the seven hitters he faced on 32 pitches. He has thrown 4 2/3 scoreless innings so far in the postseason.

“What a weapon to have,” manager Ron Washington said.

Darren Oliver took over in the eighth, and retired Don Kelly and Avila in lefty-vs.-lefty matchups before giving way to Mike Adams. He quickly disposed of Jhonny Peralta to end the top of the eighth as a light rain started falling.

With three outs left, Feliz came in from the bullpen.

Santiago started the inning with a bunt hit, but Feliz quickly struck out pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit and overpowered Jackson for another strikeout.

Raburn, starting for the injured Delmon Young, went to a 2-2 count before also striking out to end the game.

“I was trying to do what I always do, trying to make my best pitches,” Feliz said. “I came looking for the result, and I got it. I was just trying to do my job.”

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