DETROIT -- The game that didn't want to start Wednesday afternoon went deep into the night at Comerica Park, and no one seemed to mind one bit.
But Game 4 of the American League Championship Series had to end eventually, and Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli made sure that it ended with a Texas Rangers victory.
Now, the best-of-seven series is drawing toward an end.
Cruz and Napoli made critical defensive plays late, and Cruz gave the Rangers ample cushion with a three-run homer after Napoli's go-ahead single in the 11th inning as the Rangers beat Detroit 7-3 in another thriller.
The Rangers need one more victory in three games to secure a second straight AL pennant and another trip to the World Series. They get their first chance at 3:19 p.m. today as C.J. Wilson faces Tigers ace Justin Verlander in Game 5.
"Huge hit by Mike Napoli, huge hit by Nelson Cruz, huge throw by Nelson Cruz, huge throw by Mike Napoli," left fielder David Murphy said. "Those two guys have been so clutch for us this postseason."
The game will go down as a classic, one that was filled with multiple good defensive plays and a series of clutch hits. The Rangers simply had a few more in their tank.
The first was a two-out single by Michael Young to cap the Rangers' three-run sixth inning and erase a 2-0 deficit against Rick Porcello. Young entered the at-bat 3 for 29 but drove home Elvis Andrus, who had advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw.
With a one-run lead, the Rangers turned to set-up ace Alexi Ogando. He got through a scoreless sixth and was headed toward another zero in the seventh but saw Brandon Inge launch an 0-2 fastball with two outs for a game-tying solo homer.
The Tigers threatened again in the eighth against Mike Adams after the Rangers opted to walk Miguel Cabrera intentionally even though there was one out and no one on.
Cabrera, who had doubled in two runs in the third against Matt Harrison, went to third base on a single by Victor Martinez. Delmon Young followed with a fly ball down the right-field line.
Cabrera tagged up as Cruz caught the ball for the second out. His throw one-hopped Napoli, who secured the ball as Cabrera tried to dislodge it. Napoli held on. Inning over. Threat over.
"He has one of the best arms in the game," Napoli said. "He came up firing and gave me a good one-hop. He gave me enough time that I was able to get low and make the play."
Napoli showed off his arm, too. Scott Feldman (1-0) hit the speedy Austin Jackson with one out in the 10th, and the Denton native took off on the first pitch.
But Napoli's throw to second base narrowly beat Jackson, and Feldman struck out Ryan Raburn to end the inning with Cabrera on deck.
The Rangers wasted no time pouncing on Jose Valverde in his second inning of work. Josh Hamilton started the winning rally with a double, and with one out Adrian Beltre was walked intentionally to set up a double play.
Napoli, though, floated a ball just past the infield. Hamilton broke immediately and scored easily. Cruz was the next hitter, and he crushed the first pitch from Valverde into the Rangers' bullpen.
Cruz has hit three homers this series, including the first game-ending grand slam in postseason history to win Game 2.
"I don't judge Nelson just because he hits balls out of the ballpark," Washington said. "He's a complete player. He takes pride in every part of the game."
The Rangers became the 19th team in ALCS history to take a 3-1 lead. Fourteen of the previous 18 instances have resulted in a trip to the World Series. The Rangers want to close out the Tigers today, but know that there are no guarantees.
"We don't get too far ahead of ourselves," Young said. "Right now the present is Game 5. We're completely focused on that."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760