DETROIT -- Justin Verlander, the 24-game winner, certain Cy Young winner and MVP contender, appeared ready to be knocked out early Thursday evening, even though he was still pumping fastballs at 100 mph.
The Texas Rangers had worked him for 112 pitches through 5 1/3 innings, and he had just walked No. 9 hitter Mitch Moreland to load the bases.
Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, though tied, was theirs for the taking. With a victory would come a second consecutive pennant and trip to the World Series.
But every bit of momentum took a sudden U-turn at third base, and the series will continue Saturday night in Arlington.
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A double play to end the top of the sixth inning and a double off the third-base bag by Miguel Cabrera in the bottom half sparked a four-run rally as the Tigers pulled away from the Rangers for a 7-5 victory.
The Rangers failed to close out the best-of-seven series in five games for a second straight year, but still lead 3-2 and need to win only once this weekend at Rangers Ballpark to defend the AL flag.
"Tonight, their backs were against the wall," manager Ron Washington said. "They did what they had to do, catching a break included. Now, we go home. We still feel good about ourselves."
It took fewer than 10 minutes in the sixth inning for a 2-2 game to get away from the Rangers, who had just missed a three-run homer in the fifth as an Adrian Beltre drive down the right-field line sliced foul.
The walk to Moreland brought up Ian Kinsler, who had doubled to start the game and later scored for a quick 1-0 lead. Rather than take a pitch after four straight balls to Moreland, Kinsler swung at Verlander's first offering and pulled it on one hop to third baseman Brandon Inge.
All Inge had to do was step on third and throw across the diamond to easily complete a double play and end the inning.
"I was looking for a fastball. I'm looking for a good pitch. It looked like a good pitch, and I swung at it," Kinsler said. "You've got to be ready to hit from the first pitch and not just go up there and take a pitch. I'm going to go up there aggressive and ready to hit."
Rangers starter C.J. Wilson issued a leadoff single to Ryan Raburn to start the Tigers' sixth and bring up slugger Miguel Cabrera. Wilson, though, got the first baseman to hit a chopper toward Beltre behind third base.
A double play looked like a possibility, but the ball hit third base and soared over Beltre and into the left-field corner. Raburn scored the go-ahead run.
"I was right in front of the ball," Beltre said. "I was playing him to pull. The pitch was in. The ball was right at me. There was no doubt it was going to be a double play."
The next hitter, Victor Martinez, looped a triple down the right-field line that a diving Nelson Cruz just missed. Delmon Young, the slugger with a bad oblique muscle, followed with a two-run homer as the first four Tigers batters hit for the cycle.
The homer was Young's second of the game and the Tigers' third off Wilson, who never recovered from the lucky Cabrera double.
"We're still in the game 3-2, and I didn't make the pitches I need to to get us out of the inning," said Wilson, who is 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA in seven career postseason starts. "I was done with it at that point. My job at that point was to get the other guys out."
Detroit added a solo homer by Raburn in the seventh, which helped cushion Cruz's two-run homer off Verlander in the eighth. The blast came on Verlander's 133rd pitch, which was thrown at 100 mph, and gave Cruz the all-time record for homers in a league championship series with five.
The Rangers added a run with two outs in the ninth and had the winning run at the plate, but Mike Napoli grounded out to end it.
And Detroit survived for another game.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760