Doug Fister delivered another strong start in a game Detroit needed and Miguel Cabrera homered and hit a tiebreaking double to lead the Tigers past the Texas Rangers 5-2 Tuesday night in Game 3 of the AL championship series.
Detroit dropped the first two games in Texas before turning to Fister, who won the decisive fifth game of the division series at Yankee Stadium last week. He was sharp again, allowing two runs and seven hits with no walks in 7 1-3 innings.
Jose Valverde, after pitching a season-high two innings the day before, worked around a leadoff double in the ninth for his third playoff save. He got some help from Cabrera, who made a diving play at first base.
"It's going to be a long series," Cabrera said. "Nobody (said) it's going to be easy. You've got to be patient."
Game 4 is Wednesday afternoon. Matt Harrison starts for Texas against Rick Porcello — both went 14-9 this season.
Cabrera's double in the fifth put the Tigers ahead 2-1 and he added a towering solo homer in the seventh.
Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta also went deep for the Tigers. Austin Jackson broke out of his postseason slump with three hits, including an RBI single.
Texas right-hander Colby Lewis, who entered 4-0 in five postseason starts, allowed four runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out six and walked two.
"He throws strikes and every now and then he's going to give up some long balls. I thought it was a pretty good ballgame," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He kept us in the ballgame. It was Fister that did the job out there tonight."
Stung by Nelson Cruz's game-ending grand slam Monday, the Tigers returned home hoping to shake out of their offensive funk. They fell behind 1-0 when Fister allowed three consecutive singles to start the game, but the 6-foot-8 right-hander held the Rangers in check after that, even striking out Cruz to end the seventh as the towel-waving crowd at Comerica Park roared its approval.
After leaving 22 runners on base in the first two games, the Tigers struggled again early on against Lewis. Detroit had two on with one out in the second, but Alex Avila and Ryan Raburn both struck out.
Lewis struck out five in the first three innings, but Martinez led off the fourth with a homer to right to tie it at 1.
Martinez, who hit .330 this season despite groin, knee and back problems, appeared to hurt himself on his home run swing, laboring slowly around the bases after the ball cleared the fence. When he returned to the dugout, his head still down, he slammed his helmet down as he descended the steps toward the clubhouse.
Detroit was already playing without injured outfielders Delmon Young, Magglio Ordonez and Brennan Boesch, and it wasn't clear whether Martinez — the designated hitter — would be able to continue. But he was back in the fifth, standing near the on-deck circle with Cabrera at the plate.
With runners at first and third and two outs, Texas decided to pitch to Cabrera, and his line drive down the right-field line stayed fair for a double to drive in a run.
"I'm not going to take another runner and put him at second base. The winning run is already at third base," Washington said. "We tried to make a pitch. Colby didn't get it there. Cabrera caught it."
Martinez drew a walk, loading the bases for Don Kelly, who hit a check-swing grounder to third. Adrian Beltre fielded the ball, then paused and waited to tag Cabrera. When the Detroit baserunner froze in his tracks, Beltre finally backpedaled toward the bag for the force to end the inning.
Beltre fouled a ball off his left knee in the fourth and hobbled the rest of the night. X-rays were negative and he has a bruise. Washington said the team would know more Wednesday.
Detroit added two runs in the sixth. Peralta led off with a homer, and Jackson's RBI single made it 4-1. It was an encouraging night for Jackson, who entered 3 for 25 in the postseason with 14 strikeouts.
Cabrera's homer in the seventh, which stayed fair down the left-field line, was his second of the playoffs.
Detroit provided more than enough offense for Fister, who was terrific down the stretch after the Tigers acquired him in a trade with Seattle shortly before the July 31 deadline. He retired his final batter Tuesday on an unusual unassisted putout, fielding Endy Chavez's grounder and then hustling over to first because Cabrera was well off the bag, trying to position himself for a potential play on the ball.
Fister was lifted after that, and he tipped his cap to an appreciative crowd as he left the field.
Fister's first nine pitches were strikes, but the Rangers poked three of them into the outfield for singles and took a 1-0 lead. Ian Kinsler led off with a single to left, then Elvis Andrus chopped an 0-2 pitch into right for a base hit.
Josh Hamilton fell behind 0-2 as well before hitting a soft line drive just past the outstretched arm of Peralta, the shortstop, for an RBI single.
Fister escaped without further damage thanks to a double-play grounder by Michael Young and a strikeout by Beltre.
"Just stick with the same game plan," Fister said. "They hit a few groundballs that made it through the holes, and good hitters do. They came out firing and Alex and I just stuck with the game plan and used our defense. Tremendous plays out there, and you know that's the name of the game."