One win. That's all the Rangers need to return to the World Series for a second consecutive season.
After taking a 2-0 ALCS lead, Texas dropped Game 3 in Detroit on Tuesday. Game 4, however, would belong to the Rangers, as Mike Napoli singled home the go-ahead run in the 11th inning before Nelson Cruz added yet another 11th inning home run, this time a three run shot, giving the Rangers a 7-3 win over the Tigers.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, Detroit's ace Justin Verlander starts for the Tigers in Game 5. Verlander, despite being a Cy Young lock in the American League, has not pitched that well in the postseason. In his Game 3 start against the Yankees, Verlander surrendered four runs in eight innings, but did strike out 11 in the contest. In his rain abbreviated Game 1 ALCS start, Verlander allowed three runs on five hits while walking two and striking out five in four innings.
Certainly, Verlander is better than his two playoff outings in 2011, but he does not have that Bob Gibson-esque aura about him.
C.J. Wilson will start for the Rangers, as he looks to turn around his playoff fortunes as well. Wilson has pitched poorly in both the ALDS and ALCS so far. In Game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers, Wilson allowed two runs on six hits and five walks in just four and 2/3 innings - thanks, in part, due to rain. Wilson was also hammered by the Rays in the first game of the ALDS, giving up eight runs (six earned) in five innings.
If the Rangers are going to clinch the pennant in Game 5, Wilson will certainly have to pitch better than he did in his last two outings.
Ron Washington's club will also need other contributors to step up on offense, notably cleanup hitter Michael Young. Young has struggled mightily this postseason, hitting to the tune of .125/.176/.125, good for a paltry .301 OPS.
First pitch is scheduled for 3:19 p.m. CT from Comerica Park in Detroit. Televised coverage can once again be found nationally on FOX.