(Reuters) - Nelson Cruz belted a grand slam home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Texas Rangers a 7-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers Monday and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
Cruz, who tied the game at 3-3 with a seventh-inning blast, connected off reliever Ryan Perry with the bases loaded for the first walk-off grand slam ever in postseason play to thrill a crowd of 51,000 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
"It was exciting," said Cruz, who had been mired in a slump before hitting a home run in the series opener. "I was trying to hit a fly ball to the gap, but it went out.
"When you get a chance for the team to get a 'W' (win) that's the most important thing."
Rangers manager Ron Washington said it was only a matter of time before Cruz, who hit 29 homers this season, got hot.
"What he done tonight he was capable of doing," Washington said. "He did it for us during the course of the year.
"We certainly needed everything he gave us tonight. He tied the ball game and he won it."
Both teams squandered bases-loaded chances in the ninth before the Rangers made the most of a second opportunity to finish off the Tigers.
Detroit had the bases full and two outs with Texas closer Neftali Feliz on the mound when Victor Martinez hit a pop fly behind second base that shortstop Elvis Andrus just held on to after it jumped out of his glove.
Texas had an even better chance in the bottom of the ninth when they loaded the bases with no outs after Detroit closer Jose Valverde hit Cruz on the wrist with a pitch.
But Valverde, who converted 49-of-49 saves during the season, got David Murphy to hit a fly ball to shallow left and the speedy Elvis Andrus did not try to tag up from third and attempt to score.
Mitch Moreland came up next and smacked a hard grounder at first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who fielded it cleanly and fired home to force out Andrus.
Catcher Alex Avila gunned it back to Cabrera who put a sweeping tag on Moreland to complete a thrilling, inning-ending double play.
"Both bullpens did a great job until the end," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
After Valverde had gone two innings, Leyland brought in Ryan Perry, who had a 5.45 earned run average in the regular season.
Michael Young singled to left and Adrian Beltre singled to center. Mike Napoli then hit a liner to right-center that appeared to be catchable but glanced off the tip of reserve outfielder Andy Dirks's glove to load the bases.
"We had a miscue out there in that inning that stretched the inning out a little bit," Leyland said. "If you keep giving a team like that, that many opportunities they are going to get you eventually, and eventually they got us."
Mike Adams got the win for Texas but Scott Feldman was a key contributor with 4-1/3 innings of one-hit relief after replacing struggling starter Derek Holland.
"That was probably the coolest game I've ever been a part of," the brown-bearded Feldman said, sitting beside Cruz in the interview room.
"When I got done, watching that game I thought my beard was gonna turn grey. It was like real nerve racking but just awesome when this guy walked it off at the end."
The series shifts to Detroit for Game Three on Tuesday, with Texas expected to start Colby Lewis against Doug Fister.
(Reporting by Larry Fine, Edited by John O'Brien)