DETROIT, Michigan // Nelson Cruz made the throw. Mike Napoli endured the collision. Then this Texas tag team put the game away with their bats to give the Rangers a 3-1 series lead going into Game 5 Wednesday night in Detroit.
Cruz made a rocket throw from right field and Napoli applied the tag on Detroit's Miguel Cabrera at the plate to keep the score tied in bottom of the eighth inning.
Then in the 11th, Napoli singled in the go-ahead run and Cruz added a crushing three-run homer off Jose Valverde to lead the Rangers to a 7-3 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday night in the American League Championship Series.
"It's been a great series. If you don't like baseball, you probably like it now, watching these games," Napoli said.
With the score tied at three in the eighth inning, Detroit had runners on first and third when Cruz caught Delmon Young's fly ball. He made a strong throw to Napoli, who was bowled over by Cabrera but held on to the ball to complete the double play and keep the game tied.
Cabrera was intentionally walked with the bases empty and Victor Martinez followed with a single to right and Cabrera lumbered safely to third. Young then lifted the ball to medium right, where Cruz caught it and made a perfect, one-hop throw to the plate that beat Cabrera.
"We throw to the bases every day," Cruz said. "We take fly balls every day [and] make sure we know the ballpark. We know any situation we can be involved in during the game. When you prepare, everything comes easily."
Ron Washington, the Texas manager, said Cruz's outstanding defensive play came as no surprise.
"For you guys that haven't seen Nelson every day, he's capable of doing exactly what he's doing," Washington said. "I don't judge Nelson just because he hits balls out of the ballpark. He's a complete player. He takes pride in every part of the game."
The teams waited through a rain delay of more than two hours before the first pitch. Once the game started, a misty rain began falling again at the end of the second inning, and umbrellas started popping up all over the ballpark. Water would kick up as the ball hopped along the grass, but the rain was not a factor in the late innings.
"It was one of the best baseball games I've ever been involved in," said Jim Leyland, the Detroit manager. "Just didn't come out the right way."