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ALCS Gm6: Cabrera cranks his second homer of the game

ARLINGTON -- This wasn't the way the Tigers' season was expected to end, even if they didn't get to the World Series.

Close, heartbreaking losses have been more a part of Detroit's recent history than drubbings. The one-game tiebreaker in 2009 took 13 innings and a blown lead. Two Tigers losses in this American League Championship Series came in the 11th inning. Their final game of 2011 was effectively over by the end of the third.

For a team that enjoyed a magical season and comebacks galore, Detroit's 15-5 loss to Texas to finish off the ALCS in six games was anticlimactic. The Tigers came ready to play, looked strong early, then got simply overwhelmed.

As weathered as manager Jim Leyland's face looked by the end -- and goodness knows there were plenty of chances to watch it -- he said it was actually easier. No second-guessing, no one highlight replaying in their heads. They gave it their best, and didn't have enough.

"I would have probably gone into the offseason more disappointed if we would have gotten beat by one run," Leyland said. "I'm not going to go into the offseason disappointed at all. This team gave every single thing they had, every ounce of energy. I just couldn't be prouder of them, and we got beat by the team that was the defending champion, and they defended their championship. They should be going [to the World Series], and they are."

For a couple innings, the Tigers thought they had a chance. They could see the path to a Game 7, having put up early runs on solo homers from Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta in the first couple of innings, and having seen Max Scherzer survive early command woes with no damage.

They knew they needed more, that two runs wouldn't hold up.

"No, no chance," Brandon Inge said. "At that point, you have to put your foot down, pedal to the metal. Two runs? With that team? No way."

They knew they needed more, and they got it. By then, though, that road to Game 7 was washed out, the Rangers' path to the World Series pretty well cleared. And the magical run the Tigers put together in 2011 had just about run out.

The Rangers sent 14 batters to the plate and nine runners home in the 38-minute third inning, and it effectively ended the Tigers' dream season in a nightmare fashion.

"It felt very long," catcher Alex Avila said of the inning. "They got hot. They're hitting the mistakes, and then when you're making good pitches, they're hitting those and they're finding a hole. That's just something you can't control."

Part of the downfall was the inconsistent control of Scherzer, who threw more balls than strikes over his 62 pitches, and gave up nearly as many walks (four) as hits (five) while recording seven outs. He had a beef on the last of those walks with a check-swing from Nelson Cruz on a 2-2 pitch. First-base umpire Tim Welke ruled Cruz did not go around on his swing; replays suggested he did.

"First things first, I still had a pitch there to not walk him and I did," Scherzer said. "After seeing the replay, man that's a tough one to swallow, because you know when I was in the game, I thought he went."

Cruz, however, was the sixth straight Rangers hitter to reach base, three of them by walk, after Scherzer retired leadoff man Ian Kinsler. Michael Young's two-run double had tied the game, and Adrian Beltre's RBI single had pulled the Rangers ahead.

"He was out of whack for the most part all the way," Leyland said of Scherzer. "His control was not good from the get-go, really. And he had a tough time. And we just couldn't stop the bleeding."

Cruz's walk brought Leyland out of the dugout for a pitching change, trying for dear life to keep the game close. David Murphy greeted Daniel Schlereth with a two-run single, and the runaway was on.

Before the game, Leyland said he hoped to go with Rick Porcello if he needed a reliever before the seventh. He did not have the third inning in mind, but he had little choice. By then, the Rangers were unstoppable, and Porcello retired one of the five batters he faced.

Both Schlereth and Brad Penny made their first appearances of the postseason. In Penny's case, the fifth starter turned long reliever got a nod to fill the innings as the outs whittled down on Detroit's season.

"It wasn't fair to some of our relievers, because they just weren't used in this series because the situation didn't present itself," Leyland said.

It would be equally unfair to judge the Tigers in this series on their last game. Their best chances to get to the World Series came in the second and fourth games, not the sixth.

They scored runs in Game 6. Both Cabrera and Peralta went to the opposite field on their home runs, with Cabrera recording a hit in his 13th straight LCS game dating back to his rookie season in 2003 with the World Series champion Marlins. Once Austin Jackson sliced a drive over the fence in right-center field for his first career postseason homer, the Tigers chased Texas starter Derek Holland with two outs in the fifth and had gotten the early runs that were a necessity to have a chance.

By then, their chance was gone, and the Tigers had little to regret.

"They definitely played better than us this series, no question about it," Avila said.

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