ARLINGTON -- Their starting pitcher didn't give them much of a chance Monday afternoon, and the bottom of the order couldn't deliver when badly needed in a tight spot as evening arrived.
A bullpen that has been terrific so far this postseason had to be run almost completely out of gas.
The Texas Rangers, though, still had Nelson Cruz, who a week ago wouldn't have inspired much confidence at the plate. But the right fielder, who hit six homers in last year's run to the World Series, put his team within two victories of another Fall Classic.
Cruz tied Game 2 of the American League Championship Series with a solo homer in the seventh, and won it with the first walk-off grand slam in postseason history as the Rangers beat Detroit 7-3.
Five relievers, led by right-hander Scott Feldman, tossed 8 1/3 scoreless innings to give the Rangers and Cruz a chance to rally from a 3-2 hole created when starter Derek Holland couldn't command his pitches.
Cruz, though, ended it with his ninth career postseason homer to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"You cannot describe the way I feel right now," said Cruz, who took a shaving-cream pie to the face and a beer shower after the fifth game-ending homer of his career.
"It was amazing. It's special. When you get a chance to get a W, that's the most important thing. I'm just happy to get the W for the fans and my teammates."
Cruz almost didn't get the chance to win the game. He tied it at 3-3 in the seventh with a leadoff homer against Max Scherzer that clanged off the left-field foul pole.
In the ninth, after Adrian Beltre doubled and Mike Napoli was walked intentionally, Cruz was plunked just above the right wrist by a Jose Valverde fastball.
Cruz went down in a heap but eventually made his way to first base. The bases were loaded with no outs, but Valverde got David Murphy to pop to left field and Mitch Moreland to bounce into a double play.
After Neftali Feliz and Mike Adams stranded runners in the 10th and 11th, Michael Young started the Rangers' 11th with a single past third baseman Don Kelly. Beltre also singled, as did Napoli on a ball that was just out of the reach of right fielder Andy Dirks.
That brought up Cruz, who took a strike and ripped the second pitch deep but foul down the left-field line. After taking a slider from Ryan Perry off the plate, Cruz sent a towering drive into the left-field seats.
He was mobbed by his teammates at home plate and cheered wildly by a Rangers Ballpark crowd of 51,227.
"For me, I can honestly say that was probably the coolest game I've ever been a part of," Feldman said. "When I got done watching that game, I thought my beard was going to turn gray."
The Rangers had taken a 2-0 lead in the first inning on RBI doubles by Josh Hamilton and Beltre.
Holland had escaped jams in the first and second, but in the third allowed a double to Miguel Cabrera and hit Victor Martinez before Ryan Raburn launched a three-run homer.
Manager Ron Washington removed Holland two batters later in favor of Feldman. The right-hander allowed only one hit, a leadoff single in the sixth.
Alexi Ogando worked 12/3 innings, but was nearly the losing pitcher after allowing a two-out single to Ramon Santiago in the ninth. Michael Gonzalez entered to face Kelly in a left-vs.-left battle, and Kelly doubled.
Feliz entered and intentionally walked Cabrera to face Martinez with the bases loaded. Martinez hit a flare into left-center field that shortstop Elvis Andrus bobbled but caught for the last out.
That was the Tigers' last threat against a bullpen that hasn't allowed a run in 12 2/3 innings to start the series. The relievers, along with Cruz, have given the Rangers a lead that only three teams since 1985 have failed to convert into a trip to the World Series.
"We need to continue to play baseball," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We can't go to Detroit and expect them to lay over. They're a very good team. We need to make sure we continue to bring it."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760