ARLINGTON - After two rain delays bogged down the fifth inning and Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, it took a team to hold on to a one-run lead for the final four innings of Texas' 3-2 game one win.
Wilson summed it up best himself.
"It's a team [against a] team," Wilson said. "It's 25 on 25, managers making trust moves - that's what the playoffs is. There's no one dude that's just going to take over every single game. Someone is going to be the MVP, but it doesn't really matter who it is for us."
It's a good thing the Rangers aren't picky about who their MVP is - there were a bevy of options to choose from.
Wilson was not as good as he has been in 2011, but he got through four innings unscathed thanks to the defense. A double play ended the top of the first and third before Wilson struck out the side in the fourth.
“C.J. was much better tonight,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “I just hoped Mother Nature wouldn’t have stopped him there.”
The offense didn’t embarrass Tigers ace and likely AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander – few do. But outfielder David Murphy had a big triple in the second inning that scored Mike Napoli from first, then scored himself on a Kinsler single.
After that, Nelson Cruz broke out of a 0-for-10 postseason slump with a fourth-inning, 392-foot home run.
The Rangers took a 3-0 lead and all the game’s momentum into the fifth, before rain delays made things tough. After a lead-off double, Wilson left for a 40 minute delay, then went back to the mound.
“You just get stiff,” Wilson said about coming back after the delay. “Pitching is all about control, and my control was a little bit off, and that made all the difference in the world.”
The inning only got worse, with two Detroit runs coming in before the rain kicked back up for another hour plus.
“It’s frustrating when you have your early-game adrenaline and that usually carries you until late in the game, then the rain delay happens and everything kind of gets zapped out of you,” Murphy said. “Then you go back out on the field and it happens again, so we were doing whatever we could to kind of reboot our systems.”
The game began for the third time with the bases loaded and two outs and Texas clinging to a 3-2 lead. Reliever Mike Gonzalez got a ground out to end the extra-long inning and that began a powerful bullpen performance.
Alexi Ogando pitched the sixth and seventh, allowing no hits while walking one and striking out three.
“[Ogando] is certainly showing he’s a great piece to have [in the bullpen,] especially when you’ve got him where he can give you multiple innings,” Washington said. “Tonight I needed him for two, and he gave it to me.”
Ogando said after the game he’s used to pitching six or more innings as a starter.
“To come and pitch only a couple of innings for me is not too hard,” Ogando said through a translator.
Then Darren Oliver got the call to take on two lefties in the eighth – he sat them both down, striking out Alex Avila. Mike Adams came in to his usual eighth inning with two outs accounted for, so he made the most of the one batter he faced by striking him out swinging.
Finally, closer Neftali Feliz came in for the top of the ninth.
He allowed a single on a bunt, but after that was overpowering.
Feliz struck out three straight Tigers swinging, including a strikeout from Austin Jackson on a 101-mph fastball. After the game, he said there was no extra emotion. He just went out and tried to do his job.
The bullpen allowed just two baserunners. One came on a walk, the other a bunt.
All five relievers did their jobs. The starter did his job. The offense and defense did their jobs.
So maybe there was no MVP Saturday night. It’s unnecessary when you have a job well done by 25 Rangers.