It’s hard to believe that the AL Championship Series has already reached a must-win scenario in Game 5 tonight, but with the Texas Rangers on the verge of eliminating the Detroit Tigers at home, it’s all on the shoulders of Detroit’s ace tonight, Justin Verlander, who will try and extend the series and keep the Tigers in the hunt for their first World Series return since losing in 5 games to St. Louis in 2006. Texas has been blessed with exceptionally timed run production so far in this series, coming mainly from the bat of Nelson Cruz, who again sent the Rangers to victory with an 11th inning home run that sealed the deal against Detroit. Coming off a 7-3 victory last night, the Rangers hand the ball to their best left hander, C.J. Wilson, who will once again try to outduel the American League’s top pitcher for a chance to send his team to the World Series in back-to-back seasons.
Justin Verlander comes into this match-up off a rare shaky start in Game 1, and the expected AL Cy Young award winner has perhaps the biggest start of his career on the line this evening at home. Giving up 3 runs in a 3-2 loss in Game 1, Verlander has simply not been the dominant force in this postseason as he has during the regular campaign, posting a 1-1 record with a 5.54 ERA. That may be in part due to the fact that Verlander has had to deal with rain being a factor in two of the three games he’s pitched in this playoff season, but rain or shine won’t matter tonight in a must-win situation for Detroit’s #1 starter. Expect Verlander to be sharp and ready to go against the Texas Rangers heavy hitting batting order, though it may be the Tigers’ bullpen that has the bigger responsibility tonight after losing twice in extra innings on monster home runs.
C.J. Wilson comes into this contest in a similar state as Verlander, not able to find great form in the postseason with an 0-1 record and a 7.45 ERA through two games pitched. Uncharacteristically he’s allowed 10 runs (8 earned) over just 9 innings pitched, and struggled with his command in Game 1 of this series, giving up 5 walks before getting yanked in the 5th inning. The same scenario is likely to play out tonight however, as with everything on the line, Wilson will certainly be up to the task of countering a fellow ace on the mound. Get ready to see a well-fought pitching match-up tonight with these two big guns getting the ball, as rain doesn’t appear to be a factor for game time, and rhythm shouldn’t be an issue for either hurler to get into.
That is of course, as long as the big bats in both line-ups don’t break out the sticks early against either ace pitcher in Game 5. Hitting has definitely overruled pitching in this series, even if the runs haven’t been produced early in the games thus far. In Texas’ last two wins, 7-3 in each game, the run total got busted only in extra innings, and only after Nelson Cruz single-handedly sent the game out of reach. Hitting all 4 of the Rangers’ home runs in this series, Justin Verlander’s first task is to keep Cruz from finding good wood and putting up crooked numbers early in this ballgame. He’ll also have to keep Josh Hamilton at bay, who’s had hits in 3 straight games and is one of the few players with career success against him (4-for-11, .364 avg.), but otherwise the real focus is going to be what happens when Verlander hands off the ball to his back-ups in the ‘pen, who have cost the Tigers 2 games in a row and have put them in elimination position.
For Detroit, the eyes will be on hitting leader Miguel Cabrera, who has a hit in all games in the series thus far, including a homer in Game 3 and 2 RBIs in the past two outings each. We could likely see Wilson pitch around Cabrera tonight, as surprisingly the Tigers’ bats haven’t otherwise had much success against Wilson over their collective careers, amassing just 1 home run, 10 RBIs and a .215 batting average for one of the top offenses in the Majors. Detroit will need to have better outings from Victor Martinez tonight (3-for-17 lifetime against Wilson and Jhonny Peralta (1-for-14, 7 Ks) if the Tigers are to put up enough runs to support their bullpen down the home stretch.
Betting Lines for the ALCS Game 5, Detroit vs. Texas
WagerWeb.com Sportsbook has the Detroit Tigers as -150 favorites on the money line to win at home in tonight’s do-or-die Game 5. The Rangers get the underdog bid at +130 odds, and with two talented pitchers on the hill, despite the big bats in both lineups the over/under stands at 7 runs (under -105, over -115). Detroit gives up 1.5 runs on the points spread at +150 odds, while Texas gets a 1.5 run cushion with -170 odds to cover.
Our Pick to Win:
Maybe it’s for the sake of seeing another AL Championship Series game this week, however Detroit looks primed to keep this series going when it matters most, and at least edge out the Rangers tonight for one more game in the series. If they can win tonight to send the series back to Texas, Detroit has plenty of confidence in their ability to win on the road, though will face a serious uphill battle having to win two games against a Texas batting order that is clutch at the closing of games, and has been supported by a talented bullpen full of big-game pitchers. Nonetheless, for this evening, Justin Verlander will be the ace he’s always been, and shuts down the Rangers bats in a 4-2 victory for the Tigers tonight.