Reliving Texas Rangers Memories: Nelson Cruz's Walk-Off Grand Slam in Game Two of the 2011 ALCS
Not many hitters can say they hit a walk-off grand slam in extra innings of a League Championship Series. Fortunately for former Texas Rangers great Nelson Cruz, he can say that when his career is all said and done.
On the night of Oct. 10, 2011, the Rangers found themselves in a back-and-forth with the Detroit Tigers in Game Two of the American League Championship Series.
Texas jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning against Tigers starter Max Scherzer. Josh Hamilton doubled to drive in Elvis Andrus, and two batters later Adrian Beltre doubled to drive in Hamilton.
Detroit roared back with three runs in the top of the third inning as little-used outfielder Ryan Raburn hit a 3-run home run off of Holland to drive in Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, knocking Holland from the game after just 2.1 innings.
Thankfully, Scott Feldman saved the day for the Rangers, working 4 1/3 clean innings to slam the door on Detroit.
Feldman's work allowed the Rangers to claw their way back as Cruz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, tying the game at 3-3.
Cruz almost didn't get a chance to be the hero in extras as Texas nearly ended it in the bottom of the ninth. A doubled by Beltre, an intentional walk to Mike Napoli, and a hit by pitch from Cruz loaded the bases for David Murphy. Murphy hit a weak flyball to left that wasn't deep enough for Beltre to run, which then led to an inning-ending 3-2-3 double play from Mitch Moreland, sending the game to extras.
Pitching held up in extras for Texas, leading to Cruz's magic in the bottom of the 11th.
"I remember that year, our team was so dangerous, especially Nelson [Cruz] against Detroit," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus recalled earlier this week via conference call. "I remember after he hit that first homer, then when the game was tied, him and I kept talking and talking. Nelson said, 'If I get another opportunity, this game is over.'"
In the 11th, Texas recorded three straight singles off of Tigers reliever Ryan Perry as Michael Young, Beltre, and Napoli all hit singles into the outfield to load the bases with nobody out, sending Cruz to the plate.
The big slugger, who had already homered in the game, was clearly searching for the walk-off bomb.
He swung for the fences on the first pitch, fouling it back to the screen. The second pitch he hit way out, but it was well foul.
"Hammered down the line, but pulled foul," Joe Buck stated shortly after Cruz made contact. Safe to say all of us were the woman in the stands behind the plate in the blue sweatshirt, bracing herself on the man next to her as soon as Cruz made contact. Everyone in the stadium thought that was it.
Little did they know fireworks were coming.
Following his long, foul flyball, Cruz took a slider down and away for ball one. On the next pitch, Cruz went yard.
"In the air, down the line...this ball...ends it!" Buck shouted into his mic.
A walk-off grand slam just inside the left field foul pole gave the Rangers a 7-3 victory, sending them on to an eventual 4-2 series win, setting up a showdown with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 World Series.
Despite all that happened in that World Series with Cruz and David freaking Freese, Cruz's walk-off Grand Slam should be remembered for how special - and unlikely - it was.
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