ARLINGTON -- For all the damage Nelson Cruz wrought when making contact in the American League Championship Series, it was his checked swing -- or was it? -- that helped ignite a record nine-run third inning for the Rangers on Saturday night.
By the time the Rangers had racked up another six runs after that to post a 15-5 victory that sent them to the World Series for a second consecutive season, there wasn't a lot of room for manager Jim Leyland and his Tigers to complain about one call in the third inning.
"I think you would look awful foolish to be complaining about a call or so when the score ended up like that," Leyland said.
That said, Leyland's view of the play hadn't changed in the span of a couple of hours and the dozen runs that scored after it.
"I do and still will always question the check swing on Cruz," said Leyland, who threw his arms in the air in the dugout when the call was made. "I thought that was definitely a strike. I thought he definitely swung."
Runs a plenty
A top 10 list of at least 15 runs scored in a postseason game.
Whether Cruz swung or not, and the record will reflect that he did not, the third inning went wild after he was ruled to have checked his swing.
The Rangers used two-run singles by David Murphy and Ian Kinsler and a pair of two-run doubles by Michael Young to bust out to a 9-2 advantage to put the game well into the Rangers' hands.
The nine-run outburst was the biggest inning in a postseason game for the Rangers and the biggest in the Majors since the Angels put up 10 runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2002 ALCS against the Twins. Also, Young's two extra-base hits in an inning marked the first such inning in LCS play and the fourth overall, the other three coming in the World Series, the last coming from Jacoby Ellsbury of Boston in 2007.
As impressive as Young was, it was a full-lineup blowup in the third, which saw nine consecutive batters reach base and a total of 14 come to the plate. The Rangers wound up with seven players scoring two runs and seven delivering multihit games.
"Everyone stepped up, and everyone contributed," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "And that's what it took tonight. That's why I say we saved our best for last, because we certainly, as a group, are capable of busting out the way we busted out tonight."
Actually, the Rangers saved their best for the third, turning Game 6 into the last one of the ALCS.
"This whole postseason, we'd been waiting for our offense to break out and put up the big inning, because we did it during the season and put up some big numbers. Tonight was a perfect night for us to do it," said leadoff man Ian Kinsler. "Honestly, we were talking about it in the clubhouse amongst ourselves, that it was time for us to put up a big-number performance."
Down, 2-0, heading into the third, the Rangers had taken a 3-2 lead by the time Cruz got to the plate with runners on first and second, thanks to Young's first two-run double and an RBI single by Adrian Beltre, which was followed by a Mike Napoli walk.
On a 2-and-2 fastball from Tigers starter Max Scherzer, Cruz held up the powerful stroke that produced a record six homers in the series, and Tigers catcher Alex Avila immediately appealed to first-base umpire Tim Welke. After Welke's "safe" call indicated Cruz did not swing, Cruz took his base a pitch later and Scherzer took a walk back to the dugout after a rough 2 1/3-inning performance.
"I still had to pitch there and not walk the guy. In the game, I thought he went, it looked like he went," Scherzer said. "After seeing the replay ... man, that's a tough one to swallow. But you can play what-ifs all you want, it still comes down to how I managed the rest of that inning. I made more mistakes than that one."
From there, Murphy's two-run single was followed pinch-hitter Craig Gentry reaching on a fielder's choice on a close play at second, Kinsler's two-run single and Young's second two-run double -- which doubled his RBI output for the entire postseason in one inning -- capping the scoring deluge in the decisive inning.
What an inning it was, one full of record performances, disputed calls and a crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington roaring its approval with each run.
Andrus tied a postseason record held by several players by scoring twice in the same inning, and the Rangers tied an LCS record with four walks in one inning. The only innings in postseason play with as many or more runs scored by a team include 10 by the Angels in the 2002 ALCS, Philadelphia A's in the 1929 World Series and the Cardinals in the 1968 World Series, and nine by the Cardinals in the 1985 NLCS.
"Finally, we exploded -- we've got a great offense, and we've been waiting for something like that," Napoli said.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.