It started with a lucky bounce and ended with the Tigers knocking around C.J. Wilson to stave off elimination and force a Game 6 with a 7-5 victory.
Texas missed a big opportunity to break the game open with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning, as Ian Kinsler helped Justin Verlander wriggle out of a jam by grounding the first pitch he saw to third base for an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the inning Miguel Cabrera’s grounder to third base looked likely to become a double play as well, but instead the ball hit the bag and bounced over Adrian Beltre’s head for a run-scoring double. And then the floodgates opened, as Victor Martinez tripled past a diving Nelson Cruz in right field and Delmon Young crushed his second homer of the game–and fifth of the postseason.
Two ground balls to third base in the same inning having such wildly different outcomes may ultimately have decided the game, although things also would have been much different had Beltre not narrowly missed a three-run homer that would have given the Rangers a 5-2 lead in the fifth inning. Twice during the same at-bat, in fact, as his opposite-field drive off Verlander’s triple-digit fastball went foul by a few feet and then his 400-foot blast to straightaway center field came up just short of the wall.
Even with those breaks going Detroit’s way things still got interesting when Verlander coughed up a two-run homer to Cruz on his 133rd pitch and then again when Phil Coke allowed the tying run to reach base in the ninth inning. Jim Leyland said before the game that setup man Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde were unavailable after pitching in three straight games and he was true to his word, sticking with Coke even against the right-handed middle of the Rangers’ lineup as righties Brad Penny and Ryan Perry threw in the bullpen.
It worked–just barely–and now the highly entertaining ALCS is headed back to Texas. And the Tigers may want to bring third base with them or at least vote the bag a full playoff share.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.