Victor Martinez slowed his home run trot to barely a jog, stepping gingerly around the bases after hurting himself with a big swing.
The banged-up Detroit Tigers are teetering but still standing, thanks to Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and another pivotal pitching performance by Doug Fister.
"You know what? This is us," Jim Leyland, the Detroit manager, said. "We are what we are. We've been doing this for the whole year, and we're going to either win this thing or go down with what we got."
Fister again delivered a strong start in a game Detroit needed to win and Cabrera hit a home run and had a tie-breaking double to lead the Tigers past the Texas Rangers 5-2 in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in Detroit on Tuesday.
Martinez homered in the fourth to tie the score at 1-1, hurting his ribcage in the process.
He stayed in the game and had every intention of being in the line-up as Detroit attempted to even the series.
"The only way I'm not playing is if I wake up dead," he said.
Detroit dropped the first two games in Texas before turning to Fister, who won the decisive fifth game of the division series at Yankee Stadium last week. He was sharp again, allowing two runs and seven hits with no walks in until leaving with one out in the eighth inning.
Jose Valverde, after tossing a season-high two innings the day before, worked around a lead-off double in the ninth for his third play-offs save. He got some help from Cabrera, who made a diving play at first base.
"It's going to be a long series," Cabrera said. "Nobody said it's going to be easy. You've got to be patient."
Adrian Beltre, the Rangers third baseman, fouled a ball off his left knee in the fourth and hobbled the rest of the night. X-rays were negative and he has a bruise.
Cabrera's double in the fifth put the Tigers ahead 2-1 and he added a towering solo homer in the seventh.
Jhonny Peralta also went deep for the Tigers and Austin Jackson broke out of his postseason slump with three hits, including an RBI single.
Martinez opened the bottom of the fourth with a homer off Colby Lewis. Martinez, a 32-year-old Venezuelan, batted .330 this season despite groin, knee and back problems, laboured slowly around the bases after the ball cleared the wall.
When he returned to the dugout, his head still down, he threw his helmet to the ground as he descended the steps toward the clubhouse. Detroit were already playing without a few injured players, including outfielders, Delmon Young, Magglio Ordonez and Brennan Boesch.
Cabrera doubled home a run in the fifth, and Detroit added two runs in the sixth. Peralta led off with a homer, and Jackson's RBI single made it 4-1.
Cabrera's homer in the seventh was his second of the play-offs.
Fister left the game to an ovation, tipping his hat to the crowd. "It gives me goose bumps to remember walking off on that," he said.