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THE STORY: The Texas Rangers can advance to their second consecutive World Series with a victory over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday but will be facing the American League’s top pitcher in Game 5. The Rangers took a 3-1 lead in the AL Championship Series with a 7-3, 11-inning victory on Wednesday and Detroit sends ace Justin Verlander to the mound in the do-or-die contest. Nelson Cruz capped a four-run 11th inning uprising in Game 4 to become the first player in postseason history to hit two extra-inning homers in the same postseason series. Fourteen of the previous 18 teams to build a 3-1 lead in the ALCS have won the series.
TV: 4:19 p.m. ET, Fox
WEATHER: There is a 22 percent chance of rain in Detroit Thursday, with game-time temperatures in the mid 60s.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rangers LH C.J. Wilson (0-0, 3.86 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Justin Verlander (0-1, 6.75 ERA)
Wilson pitched 4 2/3 innings in Saturday’s opening game of the series and gave up two runs and six hits. He returned after the first rain delay in the fifth inning but didn’t return after the second. The Game 1 outing was only Wilson’s second career start against Detroit.
Verlander pitched just four innings in Game 1 due to the rain delays. He took the loss and allowed three runs and five hits. Verlander is 6-2 with a 2.31 ERA in nine career regular-season starts against Texas. Cruz homered against Verlander in Game 1 after entering the contest with just one career hit against the probable Cy Young Award winner.
ABOUT THE TIGERS: Closer Jose Valverde was racked for the four 11th-inning runs and has a 7.36 ERA in six postseason appearances. He is 52-for-52 in save opportunities, counting three postseason saves. Miguel Cabrera had a two-run double and is batting .357 in the series. Brandon Inge homered in Game 4 after hitting just three in the regular season. Victor Martinez played despite a strained intercostal muscle.
ABOUT THE RANGERS: Cruz has four homers and nine RBIs in the series but also made an impact with his arm in Game 4 by throwing out Cabrera at the plate in the eighth inning. Mike Napoli had the go-ahead single in the 11th prior to Cruz’s homer. Michael Young had a run-scoring single for his first RBI of the postseason. Young is hitting just .118 in the ALCS. David Murphy had three hits. Adrian Beltre played despite a gimpy knee after fouling a ball of it in Tuesday’s game.
* Rangers are 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Tigers are 4-1 in Verlanders last five home starts vs. Rangers.
* Under is 4-1 in Verlanders last five home starts vs. Rangers.
* Under is 4-1 in Verlanders last five starts vs. Rangers.
* Under is 10-3-3 in the last 16 meetings in Detroit.
* Tigers are 6-2 in Verlanders last eight starts vs. Rangers.
* Rangers are 5-17 in the last 22 meetings in Detroit.
FINAL PITCH: Texas manager Ron Washington elected to intentionally walk Cabrera with one out and nobody on in the eighth, the inning in which Cruz gunned Cabrera out at the plate.
Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals (-135)
St. Louis leads series 2-1
THE STORY: The St. Louis Cardinals’ Achilles heel during the regular season was the bullpen. Since Game 2 of the Division Series, the Cardinals relief corps has been nearly hittable. Now the bullpen, with a little help from Albert Pujols and David Freese, has gotten St. Louis control of the National League Championship Series. The Milwaukee Brewers are still waiting for one of their starting pitchers to put up a strong effort in the series. Randy Wolf will get the next shot when the Brewers attempt to even the series at two games apiece on Thursday night at Busch Stadium.
TV: 8:05 p.m. ET, TBS
WEATHER: Skies will be clear in St. Louis, however, winds gusting of speeds of up to 12 mph will blow WNW, from the third-base line out to right field. Game-time temperatures will be in the high 60s.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Brewers LH Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.69 ERA) vs. Cardinals RH Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.39 ERA).
Wolf was crushed by the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Division Series, surrendering seven runs in three innings to suffer the Game 4 loss. Including his last two regular season turns, Wolf has posted a 10.43 ERA in his last three starts. The veteran lefthander went 3-2 with a 5.34 ERA in five outings against St. Louis in 2011.
Lohse started out strong in Game 1 of the LDS against Philadelphia but melted down in the middle innings to suffer the loss. He pitched six scoreless innings to beat Milwaukee on Sept. 6 but was just 1-2 in three turns against the Brewers despite a 2.37 ERA this season.
ABOUT THE BREWERS: The offense managed to bail out Zack Greinke in Game 1. Shaun Marcum and Yovani Gallardo weren’t quite as lucky. Milwaukee starters have been torched for a 9.00 ERA and are averaging five innings per outing. The Brewers bullpen is built to hold a lead from the seventh inning on with LaTroy Hawkins, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford. The middle innings are a little trickier. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder combined to go 1-for-6 without an RBI on Wednesday.
ABOUT THE CARDINALS: The St. Louis bullpen was asked to cover four innings in Game 3. Four relievers combined for four perfect innings. Since Game 2 of the LDS, the Cardinals bullpen has allowed a total of four runs in 23 2/3 innings. Pujols, who tied a postseason record with four extra-base hits in Game 2, started with an RBI double in the first inning of Game 3 and is hitting .636 (7-for-11) in the series. Freese is at .500 (6-for-12). The two have combined for 12 RBIs.
* Under is 4-0-2 in Lohses last six starts vs. Brewers.
* Under is 5-0-1 in Wolfs last six road starts vs. Cardinals.
* Under is 14-3-4 in the last 21 meetings in St. Louis.
* Under is 4-1-1 in Lohses last six home starts vs. Brewers.
* Brewers are 4-1 in Wolfs last five road starts vs. Cardinals.
* Brewers are 5-2 in Wolfs last seven starts vs. Cardinals.
* Under is 5-2-1 in Wolfs last eight starts vs. Cardinals.
* Brewers are 1-4 in the last 5 meetings in St. Louis.
* Brewers are 2-8 in the last 10 meetings.
* Cardinals are 2-8 in Lohses last 10 starts vs. Brewers.
* Cardinals are 1-5 in Lohses last 6 home starts vs. Brewers.
FINAL PITCH: Chris Carpenter got the win with five innings in Game 3, tying Bob Gibson for the all-time Cardinals postseason record with seven. Carpenter needed three more starts to reach the mark.