Tigers manager says MLB already a postseason winner

Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:38pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Whether or not his Tigers advance, Major League Baseball has been a winner in his team's American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers, Detroit manager Jim Leyland said on Friday.

Detroit trails 3-2 in a best-of-seven series that sends the winner to the World Series, but the Tigers have battled a rash of injuries and lost a pair of dramatic 11-inning games in what has been a tight, hard-fought series.

Taking away a pair of four-run outbursts in those extra innings, the Tigers have outscored the Rangers 20-16 during regular time.

"This has been a great series," Leyland told reporters during a conference call on the club's travel day to Texas ahead of Saturday's Game Six. "These games have been absolutely phenomenal. Major League Baseball at its best."

Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz ended the first 11-inning loss with a grand slam, and blasted a three-run home run to complete the 11th-inning outburst that won Game Four.

"He's a threat to hit the ball out of the ballpark at any time," acknowledged Leyland. "We have not done a very good job of pitching him."

Leyland enters the final leg of the series with a refreshed bullpen after making a winning gamble that he could get through an Thursday's elimination game relying solely on ace Justin Verlander and reliever Phil Coke.

"I'm glad we got an off day to give the wounded a better chance to heal up a little bit better and (relievers) Benoit and Valverde a couple of days rest," the manager said. "Hopefully that works to our advantage."

Set-up man Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde have been workhorses, with Benoit logging four innings in three appearances in this series, and Valverde throwing 4-1/3 innings in three outings.   Continued...

<p>Detroit Tigers players (L-R) Ryan Raburn, Don Kelly, Brandon Inge and Phil Coke celebrate after they defeated the Texas Rangers in Game 5 in their MLB ALCS baseball playoffs in Detroit, Michigan, October 13, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>