"It was just one of those balls -- a little bit between us -- and it should have been caught," Dirks said. "I didn't make the play and put Ryan in a really tough spot. He couldn't really work his pitches the way he wanted to with a man on third. It makes it a little different ballgame."
Cruz went into the books as the first to hit a grand slam in postseason history, though the Mets' Robin Ventura should have been credited with one in Game 5 of the 1999 National League Championship Series against the Braves.
Belting his drive to right field through the raindrops off Kevin McGlinchy at Shea Stadium, Ventura was intercepted between first and second base by backup catcher Todd Pratt and his teammates. Ventura never touched home plate, so he was credited with what would be later referred to as a "grand slam single."
On Monday, the Rangers waited for Cruz to touch home plate, setting off their celebration there.
"I had a basketball court at my house when I was a kid, so I always tried to shoot like Michael Jordan," a beaming Cruz said later at his locker. "I always want to be part of the exciting moments."
Perry had replaced closer Jose Valverde for the 11th inning, and Michael Young greeted the right-hander with a single to left field that scooted past the dive of third baseman Don Kelly, playing a no-doubles defense.
Adrian Beltre singled to center, and after a visit to the mound, Napoli found the right-field turf with his well-placed pop.
"It's kind of a tough play because it's in between us a little bit, but I should have caught it, for sure," Dirks said. "I should have just run up and caught it, but I kind of laid back for a half-second, and that's all it took to hit off the end of my glove."
Cruz connected with the game-winner, homering in his third consecutive ALCS game, including the clinching Game 6 of last year's set against the Yankees.
"He's a great hitter," Perry said. "You've got to make better pitches to him. A 1-2 pitch, the slider came inside and he made the best of it."
Perry had watched from the bullpen as Valverde improbably escaped a bases-loaded, none-out situation in the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings, but he wasn't able to produce the same result.
"It's not the situation you want to put yourself in," Perry said. "Jose did a great job to get himself out of it, and that's what I was hoping to do. It just didn't go my way."