Tigers open the floodgates after lucky bounce and hang on to beat Rangers, forcing Game 6

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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.

José Ramirez’s 17-pitch at-bat kickstarts Indians’ five-run comeback in ninth inning

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With his team trailing 8-3 to begin the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Astros, Indians third baseman José Ramirez eventually won a 17-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, ripping a double off of the wall in right field. The Indians would go on to score five runs on seven hits to tie the game against Giles and Hector Rondon. Ramirez almost won the game in his second at-bat of the ninth inning, but first basebamn Yuli Gurriel made a terrific diving catch on a line drive otherwise headed for the right field corner.

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record for the longest at-bat last month, seeing 21 pitches against the Angels’ Jaime Barria. The Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez sfaw 20 pitches from the Indians’ Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, which was the previous record. Kevin Bass saw 19 pitches from the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1988. There have also been five 18-pitch at-bats from Brian Downing, Bip Roberts, Alex Cora, Adam Kennedy, and Marcus Semien.

Sunday’s game wound up going 14 innings. The Astros pulled ahead 9-8 in the top of the 13th on a solo home run from Evan Gattis. However, the Indians’ Yonder Alonso responded with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 13th to re-knot the game at 9-9. Greg Allen then lifted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Indians a 10-9 win.

After Sunday’s effort, Ramirez is batting .292/.389/.605 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks third across baseball behind Mike Trout (4.4) and Mookie Betts (4.1). They’re the only players at three wins or above.