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Ace (Verlander) and base (third) add to growing legend of this ALCS


DETROIT -- Gene Lamont wanted the base.

I just want a seventh game.

Not because I care who wins it. Just because this series deserves it.

And because I can't wait to see what happens next.

What's happened already has been special, and what happened in Thursday's 7-5 Tigers win bordered on wacky. So wacky that when Lamont, the Tigers' third-base coach, said he had sent a clubhouse kid out trying to get the third-base bag after the game, it made perfect sense.

Hey, if the Tigers come all the way back and win this series -- and doesn't that seem totally possible now? -- that base will live on in the history and the memory of two teams and two states.

That base. The one that Miguel Cabrera's sixth-inning ground ball hit, the one that turned it from a rally-killing double play into a tie-breaking double, the one that at the very least sent the Tigers' season back to Texas for Game 6 on Saturday night, and just maybe changed the course of an entire series.

"Sometimes you need a little luck," Lamont said. "Sometimes a lot of luck."

ALCS: Rangers at Tigers
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The Tigers were feeling lucky, without a doubt, but they were also feeling full of life. And feeling like they're playing in what may be one of the best postseason series ever.

"I've come to the park every day and realized how much fun I'm having," catcher Alex Avila said.

And he's the one with two sore knees, and who knows how many other body parts hurting.

He's also the guy who hit the first of the Tigers' four home runs, the first time they've ever done that in a postseason series. And the guy who caught Justin Verlander, in one of the more impressive games of his ultra-impressive season.

"For me, I'd probably put it right after the no-hitter," Avila said. "It's probably a tie, given the situation."

The situation was this: The Tigers were on the verge of elimination. Manager Jim Leyland had leaned so heavily on closer Jose Valverde and setup man Joaquin Benoit that he announced pregame that neither would appear in Game 5.

The Tigers needed Verlander to pitch as well as he could, for as long as he could. Their season depended on it.

The stats say he went 7 1/3 innings, and gave up four runs. The reality was that he gave the Tigers what they needed.

"It's as gutsy a performance as you'll see," general manager Dave Dombrowski said.

It's been a gutsy series, on both sides. But this game was as wild as any of the first four.

Here's just a small taste of what we saw:

  Verlander throwing 100 mph on his 133rd pitch of the game, and Nelson Cruz turning that 100 mph around for his record fifth home run of the series.

  Verlander throwing another pitch 102 mph, and Adrian Beltre missing a home run by inches. "Thank God it wasn't 101," Verlander said. "Or it would be a home run."

  Verlander, who is not a ground-ball pitcher, getting Ian Kinsler to ground into a double play for the biggest out of the game.

 Delmon Young, who wasn't supposed to play in this series because of a strained oblique muscle, hitting two home runs. Avila, who may be hurt worse than Young, hitting a home run. Victor Martinez, who has a bad toe, a bad knee and a sore side, delivering his first triple of the year and just his fourth in 4,370 career at-bats (regular season and postseason combined).

 The Tigers going single, double, triple, home run, in order, to start the sixth inning, the first time that has ever happened in a postseason game.

  And that base.

The one Lamont wanted. The one that had Beltre telling the Tigers they were lucky.

The one that had the Tigers agreeing.

"We were lucky," Cabrera said. "You need some luck now. Hopefully we're lucky Saturday."

They were lucky in a few ways Thursday, and not just because the ground ball hit the base. They were also lucky because when it did, Rangers manager Ron Washington didn't start warming anyone up.

Washington has been understandably quick to go to his bullpen in this entire postseason, but he was inexplicably slow to make the call Thursday. With Verlander already at 113 pitches through six, with Benoit and Valverde unavailable, a one- or two-run Tiger lead could have been overcome. A four-run Tiger lead, which is what they had by the time the inning ended (with starter C.J. Wilson still on the mound) was just a little too much.

Leyland, as he said he would do, went as far with Verlander as he possibly could. Then, as he said he would do, he followed Verlander with Phil Coke, the only reliever he wanted to use.

Coke, had just one regular-season save, but he became the first Tiger to get at least four outs in a postseason save since Willie Hernandez did it in the 1984 World Series.

He did it the hard way, allowing a run in the ninth and then putting the tying runs on base for Mike Napoli. He got Napoli, stranding Cruz on deck.

That's Cruz, whose five home runs tie the most anyone has had in a postseason series, matching Reggie Jackson, Chase Utley, Ken Griffey Jr. and Juan Gonzalez.

Now Cruz has one more game to break the tie. Maybe two more.

Hopefully two more. Maybe he breaks it with another extra-inning game-winner, in Game 7.

Or maybe the Tigers win Game 7.

As long as there is a Game 7. This series demands it.


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