Rangers try to put Tigers away and punch ticket to World Series

The Texas Rangers take another crack at securing their second straight World Series berth this evening when they play Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers.

The Rangers were unable to put this best-of-seven set away on Thursday in Detroit and now the series shifts back to Arlington, where Texas has won three of its four postseason games this season, as it tries to become the fifth franchise since 1969 to win consecutive American League pennants.

This is the 15th time in the history of the ALCS that the series has gone to a Game 6. In the previous 14 occurrences, the team holding the 3-2 advantage has won the series 10 times, including last year's Rangers team.

Tonight, Texas turns to left-hander Derek Holland, who tied for the American League lead with four shutouts on the year, but comes into this start on the heels of an awful showing against the Tigers in Game 2.

Holland allowed three runs and four hits, while walking four batters in just 2 2/3 innings of that one. His offense bailed him out, though, as he escaped without a decision in the Rangers' extra-inning win.

"You have to give it to our bullpen," Holland said. "But I'm very frustrated with how I performed. I didn't execute my pitches. I couldn't get my fastball down and that's a big thing. If you can't throw your fastball, you're not going to stay in there very long."

Holland was 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA in the regular season and went 10-1 with a 2.77 ERA over his final 15 starts.

"I felt real good coming in," Holland said. "I didn't notice any troubles with my fastballs. It was just one of those things that it came up and I couldn't get it to go back down."

Detroit righty Max Scherzer didn't factor in the decision of that Game 2 assignment either, as he allowed three runs and six hits in six innings.

"You just know they're really, really good," said Scherzer, who's 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three postseason appearances. "I don't think we have to go too deep into that. Their offense is really potent. It just comes down to me knowing them, them knowing me, and going out there to execute pitches. That's all I can do."

Scherzer, a 15-game winner in the regular season, has now faced the Rangers seven times including his start earlier in the week and is a perfect 3-0 against them.

He'll be given the task of having to slow down Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, who hit his LCS record fifth home run on Thursday, but it was not enough, as the Tigers rode a gutsy performance from their ace and swatted four home runs of their own to pull out a 7-5 win.

Detroit ace Justin Verlander (2-1) threw 133 pitches, 94 for strikes, and gave up four runs on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. He struck out eight, walked three and was good enough to play stopper.

Detroit was also the recipient of a fortuitous bounce in the sixth inning that changed the shape of the game. After Verlander wiggled his way out of a one- out bases loaded jam in the top half of the inning, Miguel Cabrera laced what looked like a sure double-play grounder to third, but the ball caught the bag and bounced into the outfield, allowing Ryan Raburn, who had singled, to score.

"I have that bag in my office right now," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "And that will be in my memorabilia room at some point in my life. I can promise you."

Victor Martinez then followed with a triple to deep right field, away from a diving Cruz, and Delmon Young hit his second homer off C.J. Wilson, a two-run blast to left field that made it 6-2. Young has five home runs this postseason.

It was the first time in postseason history that four players on a team hit for the cycle in succession in a game.

"They caught a break," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "That's what I thought."

The Tigers are 9-8 in club history when facing postseason elimination.

Wilson (0-2) continued to struggle here in the playoffs and allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks, striking out five in six innings.

In addition to his home run record, Cruz's 11 RBI in this round have also tied the record set by Boston's David Ortiz against the Yankees in 2004 and Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton in '08 against the Red Sox.

"This is very special," said Cruz, who belted six home runs with 11 RBI in 16 playoff games last season. "There have been a lot of great players who have played in the playoffs. It's incredible to me that my name is now part of baseball history."

New York's Reggie Jackson (1978 WS), Philadelphia's Chase Utley (2009 WS), Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr. (1995 ALDS), and the Rangers' Juan Gonzalez (1996 ALDS) are the only other players to belt five home runs in a single postseason series.

These teams have never met in the playoffs, but the Tigers won six of their nine regular season matchups against the Rangers.