ARLINGTON (AP) – Nelson Cruz and the Texas Rangers are headed to their second straight World Series, finishing off the Detroit Tigers to become the American League’s first repeat champion in a decade.
Cruz set a postseason record with his sixth home run of the series, Michael Young hit a pair of two-run doubles in a nine-run third inning, and the Rangers romped to a 15-5 win Saturday night that won the AL pennant in six games.
They’ll open the World Series on Wednesday night at St. Louis or Milwaukee, seeking the first title in the history of a franchise that started play in 1961.
Cruz had 13 RBIs in the series, another postseason record, and was selected MVP.
“He was unbelievable,” teammate Adrian Beltre said. “Every moment we needed him, he came through.”
Young, who also homered, had five RBIs in the finale, and the longest-tenured player on the Rangers helped make sure the World Series will again be deep in the heart of Texas.
Young caught Brandon Inge’s game-ending popout in short right field and pumped a fist into the air signaling “No. 1” while fireworks and confetti filled the air, then ran toward the middle of the field to celebrate with his teammates.
Cruz threw both hands in the air and briefly knelt to a knee in the outfield before running to the infield for the ginger ale-spraying celebration to come while a banner was unfurled high over center field declaring the Rangers 2011 AL champions
With former President George W. Bush seated in the front row alongside Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, part of the ownership group that took over the team last year, Rangers manager Ron Washington was at the edge of the dugout wildly waving his arms and shouting encouragement to his players as the big inning unfolded.
All Tigers manager Jim Leyland could do was take off his cap and scratch his head.
A franchise that began as the expansion Washington Senators and moved to Texas in 1972 had failed to reach the World Series in its first 49 seasons. Then the Rangers won their first AL pennant last year only to lose the Series to the San Francisco Giants in five games.
“As soon as the season began, we were hungry, we were hungry to get back,” Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said.
Texas overcame a 2-0 deficit by sending 14 batters to the plate against Detroit starter Max Scherzer (0-1) and three relievers in the highest-scoring postseason inning since 2002.
Alexi Ogando (2-0) pitched two scoreless innings for his second win in the series as the Rangers became the AL’s first consecutive pennant winner since the New York Yankees won four in a row from 1998-01.
While Young became only the fourth player in postseason history with two extra-base hits in the same inning — first a tying double into the left-field corner and then one down the right field line for a 9-2 lead — every batter in the Texas lineup reached base at least once before the third out of the third. By the time all the fireworks was over, the Rangers scored the most runs ever in a postseason game against the Tigers and the most in any postseason contest since the Yankees routed Boston 19-8 in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.
Also among the sellout crowd of 51,508 was Dirk Nowitzki, MVP of the NBA finals won by the Dallas Mavericks in June.
Now the Rangers get another chance to bring another championship to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and go a step further than last season.
Young, in his 11th season in Texas, had played in 1,508 career regular season games before finally getting into the playoffs last year. He added a huge exclamation point to his already big night when he led off the seventh with a 416-foot homer to straightaway center field.
His five RBIs matched the Rangers postseason record set by Cruz in Game 2.
Young’s two two-run doubles came in the highest-scoring inning in a postseason game since the Angels matched a playoff record with 10 runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 during the 2002 ALCS against Minnesota.
Texas’ big inning started when Andrus drew a one-out walk and Josh Hamilton blooped an opposite-field single to left. After Young tied it, Beltre hit a go-ahead single under the leg of Scherzer, who was gone after consecutive walks to Mike Napoli and Cruz.
Cruz fought back from an 0-2 count for his walk. On a checked swing on a 2-2 pitch, Scherzer and Leyland both reacted in disbelief when first base umpire Tim Welke signaled no swing. When the next pitch was ball four, Cruz flipped his bat away and quickly clapped his hands.
David Murphy hit a two-run single off Daniel Schlereth, facing his only batter in his only appearance of the series. Game 4 starter Rick Porcello took over and pinch-hitter Craig Gentry reached on a fielder’s choice as Murphy beat the throw to second. Ian Kinsler’s two-run single made it 7-2, and Young’s second double boosted the margin to 9-2.
When Ryan Perry finally induced Beltre to hit an inning-ending flyout, fans roared in anticipation of a World Series berth that wouldn’t be official for five more innings. Most wildly waved white rally towels, and another behind the Rangers dugout swayed a Texas state flag back-and-forth high in the air.
Detroit had already avoided elimination twice this postseason, winning Game 5 of the AL division series at Yankee Stadium and then extending the ALCS with a 7-5 win at home Thursday.
Derek Holland allowed solo homers to Miguel Cabrera in the first and Jhonny Peralta in the second as Detroit, seeking its first Series title since 1984, tried to force a Game 7.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of a team than I am of this team,” Leyland said. “They gave everything they had.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)