for this game

Cruz's homer gives Rangers series lead

Oct 9, 2011 - 7:00 AM Arlington, TX (Sports Network) - Nelson Cruz's home run off Justin Verlander in the fourth inning was the difference, as the Rangers edged the Tigers, 3-2, in a rain-interrupted opener to the American League Championship Series.

In a game that featured nearly two hours of delay, neither starter pitched through the fifth inning and neither bullpen gave up a run.

Cruz's homer gave Texas a 3-0 lead, and the Rangers held on through two lengthy rain delays in the fifth inning to gain the early advantage in this best-of-seven series.

Texas, which defeated Tampa Bay in a Division Series matchup, is back in the ALCS for a second consecutive year. The Rangers beat the Yankees in the 2010 ALCS before losing to San Francisco in the World Series.

Detroit knocked off New York in the first round of the playoffs and is in the ALCS for the first time since 2006, when it lost the World Series to St. Louis.

But the Tigers got off to a rocky start Saturday despite having Verlander (0-1) on the mound.

The Detroit ace pitched just four innings in another postseason start cut short by rain -- his Game 1 outing in the ALDS lasted only one inning because of the weather.

But in the four innings Verlander did throw Saturday, he wasn't his sharpest, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks.

"I thought tonight that his control was not good," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "His control was not very good. He didn't really have his curveball going for strikes. He had a tough time with it, I think probably trying to overthrow it a little bit."

The deficit wasn't an insurmountable one for the Tigers offense to overcome, but they were missing a key piece in outfielder Delmon Young, who was left off the ALCS roster because of a left oblique strain suffered during Game 5 of the Division Series.

Detroit batted only 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base Saturday. In fact, the Tigers' only runs came in the fifth, after the game had resumed from delay.

Rangers starter C.J. Wilson escaped a bases-loaded situation in the first inning by getting Magglio Ordonez to ground into a double play, and held Detroit scoreless in the next three innings as well.

He gave up a double to Ramon Santiago to start the fifth, at which point the rains became too much and the tarp was brought on the field.

Wilson stayed in to pitch once the game got back underway and surrendered an RBI double to Austin Jackson. He then walked consecutive batters to load the bases with one away before throwing a pitch to Victor Martinez severely inside and low.

The ball hit catcher Mike Napoli's glove and bounced away, allowing Jackson to score and pull the Tigers within 3-2.

The play left runners on second and third, but Wilson got Martinez to hit a grounder for the second out. He intentionally walked Ordonez to load the bases before heavy rains forced another delay.

When the game got started once more, Mike Gonzalez came in to pitch and quickly ended the threat. Alex Avila grounded out to second to end the inning.

"Before the rain came, Avila was going to be C.J.'s last guy," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "But the rain stopped it. So we come back, we brought out Gonzalez."

He was the first of five Rangers relievers to come into Saturday's game.

Alexi Ogando (1-0) threw two hitless innings before Darren Oliver and Mike Adams worked the eighth. Neftali Feliz gave up a bunt single to Santiago to start the ninth, but struck out the next three hitters with his blazing fastball -- clocked at 101 mph -- to secure the victory.

Detroit's bullpen was similarly effective, limiting Texas to one hit in four innings, but Verlander's early struggles forced the Tigers to play from behind.

He avoided trouble in the first inning despite issuing two walks, but couldn't get out of the second unscathed.

Napoli hit a leadoff single to right and scored on David Murphy's triple to the gap in right-center field. Ian Kinsler's two-out single later in the inning made it a 2-0 game.

The pitches hit by Napoli, Murphy and Kinsler during the inning were either over the plate or up in the zone.

That trend continued in the fourth with Cruz, who ripped a high-and-tight fastball over the left field fence to start the frame.

Game Notes

Cruz's home run was just hit second hit of the postseason. He batted 1-for-15 during the ALDS matchup against the Rays...Dating back to his final start of the regular season on September 24, Verlander has allowed a total of 12 runs. Of the 12 runs, 10 have come in the first three innings of the games...Young hit three homers in the ALDS and batted .316 overall.