Tigers Stay Alive -- For Now

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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The Tigers came into Game 5 of the American League Championship Series hoping that Justin Verlander would save their season.

Instead, Delmon Young did the job.

Young hit two home runs -- including a two-run shot to cap a four-run sixth inning -- en route to the Tigers? 7-5 victory over the Texas Rangers before a sellout of 41,908 crowd at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon.

Hearts, though, still fluttered a little after Phil Coke closed out the game, getting Mike Napoli to hit into a fielder?s choice to end the game with the tying runs on base.

The Rangers still have a 3-2 lead in this best-of-seven series. Game 6 is Saturday night in Arlington, Texas.

"It feels great," said Young, who wasn?t originally on the ALCS roster because of his oblique injury. "It didn?t matter if it was me or anybody else. We needed JV to go out there and pitch as deep in the ballgame like he did because we were short-handed on the bullpen."

For sure, most Tigers fans want to believe that they will pull off a miracle and win this series. It just seems improbable. The Tigers -- struggling to score runs most of the series -- would have to beat the Rangers three straight times, including the final two games on their home field.

Worse, the Tigers? bullpen has been less than stellar in this series, although Coke recorded five outs to get a save here. Still, Texas has won two of the five games in extra innings with big home runs of relievers.

History also isn?t on the Tigers? side. Of the previous 18 series where a team had held a 3-1 lead, 14 have advanced to the World Series. "We need to go down there and play -- how we played in Comerica down there in Texas," said Young, who hit a solo homer in the fourth inning.

Coming in, most Tigers fans were on edge, mostly because their team was facing elimination. Of course, they had faith that Verlander would be able to shutdown the Rangers? tough lineup. Verlander, who picked up the win, gutted it out, throwing a career-high 133 pitches. He allowed four earned runs on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings of work. He walked three and struck out eight

Still, there were questions if the Tigers, battling a few injuries, would be able to muster enough runs in order to win. The Tigers answered it in a big way with four homers, establishing a new franchise record in a postseason game.

Young?s second homer marked just the fourth time a Tiger had two homers in a postseason game. It was only second time in LCS play. Magglio Ordonez also did it vs. Oakland on Oct. 14, 2006. "He?s been on a tear swinging the bat," said Rangers manager Ron Washington of Young.

The game swung in the sixth inning. The Rangers appeared as if they were going to blow the game open. They had Verlander on the ropes. With the score tied 2-2, the Rangers had the bases loaded with just one out and Ian Kinsler up. "It had been a battle all day," Verlander said. "I made some big pitches to get out of some jams."

On the first pitch, Verlander got Kinsler to hit into an inning-ending double play. "We had him right there in the sixth," Washington said. "He got out of it. We missed a home run by inches ? So that?s the way it was. He did what they needed him to do. Stay out there. What a game."

The Tigers then came up and erupted for four run, hitting for a natural cycle in the process. The biggest blow coming from Young after Ryan Rayburn led off with a single, Miguel Cabrera doubled off the third base bag and Victor Martinez tripled.

"That?s a dangerous middle of the order,?" Washington said. "Right there in the sixth inning, they showed up. Catching a break, but they showed up. That happens in the game of baseball."

And partly because of it, the Tigers aren?t going home for the winter. They head to Arlington with big hopes and dreams that they can do the impossible. Thursday was the first step up a mountain that hasn?t been conquered often.

"We?re tough," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "What I like about this the most is I know that the Texas Rangers respect us and we respect them. I know that they believe we?re a good club or a really good club. And we know that they?re a really good club. That?s the way it should be. Guys are going at it."

Stay tuned.

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