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Must C Crushed: V-Mart ties up Game 3 with solo shot

DETROIT -- The Tigers are a battered and bruised ballclub, seemingly more so by the day. The way they looked on Tuesday, they are far from beaten.

"We're kind of limping through this series right now," said catcher Alex Avila, one of Detroit's many walking wounded. "You have to find a way to get the job done regardless."

Physically, that might be an understatement. Psychologically, it's a dramatization. After Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the Rangers, they're far from dead in this American League Championship Series.

The Tigers are down, two games to one, and limping, but to Avila, that's a good thing.

"You want to be limping," Avila explained. "You don't want to be completely out. You want to be on crutches. That's the thing."

If they're moving and breathing, that's good. Because the way Victor Martinez sounds, he's going to keep playing unless he joins the cast of "The Walking Dead."

Martinez's game-tying home run came at a price, as his hobbled trot around the bases showed. The swing that sent Colby Lewis' two-strike pitch deep to right field leading off the fourth inning strained a muscle in Martinez's right side, injuring him to the point that his teammates couldn't quite tell whether to congratulate the veteran or console him as he rounded the bases and went straight to the trainer's room.

By game's end, an entire Tigers offense that seemed limited after two low-scoring, missed-opportunity losses in Texas had awakened with three leadoff home runs, a pair of two-out rallies and a long-awaited run off the Rangers' bullpen. The onslaught supported Doug Fister, who recovered from three straight hits opening the game to scatter just four more over 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball.

Just about as important, the man who started the roll of five unanswered runs through the middle innings sounded like he was shrugging off yet another injury.

"The only way I don't play [in Game 4]," Martinez said, "is if I wake up and I'm dead."

Martinez said something similar at the end of the regular season, when he fouled a ball off his right big toe. He has been dealing with a sore left knee since early August. That had shown in his deliberate steps around the bases for two months, but his trip on Tuesday looked even more painful than before.

The Tigers lost outfielder Delmon Young from the lineup earlier in the day, his abdominal strain having flared up after he played in Game 2, and he didn't sound particularly optimistic about playing in Game 4. Detroit watched Magglio Ordonez limp gingerly down the foul line during pregame introductions with his right foot in a boot, having fractured his ankle in the series opener.

With Martinez unable to catch since August, Avila has been catching nearly every game, which shows in his slow steps to first on a balky left knee. Avila was one of just two Tigers starters without a hit Tuesday, going 0-for-4 to fall to 2-for-29 for the postseason.

Get the picture? While the Tigers won't use health as an excuse, it presents at least a partial explanation for their difficulty plating runs. After Avila and Ryan Raburn struck out with two runners on in the second inning, Detroit was 2-for-21 with runners in scoring position for the series.

Martinez's home run was a spark. His return to the on-deck circle the next inning might well have ignited the go-ahead rally. The healthy Tigers seemed to heat up in turn.

"I know we're a little off right now on offense," said Jhonny Peralta, who hit one of the home runs. "But we're at home right now. When we're at home, we play better baseball. [Wednesday], it's going to be different. We'll see that we can start to get hot every at-bat."

Once Martinez emerged from the dugout and gingerly stepped on deck in the fifth, the sellout crowd at Comerica Park roared. The Rangers, meanwhile, still pitched to Miguel Cabrera in front of Martinez, putting him in an 0-2 count with two outs after back-to-back singles from Austin Jackson and Ramon Santiago started a two-out rally.

Lewis tried to get Cabrera to chase a pitch off the plate.

"The ball was supposed to be out of the zone," Rangers manager Ron Washington explained. "He didn't put it there. That was what was supposed to happen."

Cabrera and his opposite-field power still got to Lewis, lacing the ball into the right-field corner for a double and his first RBI since Game 2 of the AL Division Series.

"It's tough in that situation, because we've had a tough time to drive in runs," Cabrera said. "I was not thinking about [Martinez on deck]. I was thinking get a good pitch to hit. Thank God we found a way to score and we won this game."

The previously dormant and injury-riddled Tigers offense broke out en masse. Peralta's leadoff homer in the sixth was his second RBI of the postseason. Jackson followed Andy Dirks' first postseason hit and stolen base with his third hit of the night, matching his hit total for the entire postseason entering the evening and tying a Tigers ALCS record.

Cabrera, fittingly, capped the onslaught by driving a mistake pitch from Koji Uehara 398 feet. His second homer of the playoffs ended 13 scoreless innings of Rangers relief this series.

"Any time those guys are clicking, we're going to score some runs," Dirks said. "It just comes with the day."

All the while, Fister was rolling, having silenced the Rangers' early aggressiveness with a sharp breaking ball. Add his regular-season effort to his postseason work, and he improved to 10-2 since being acquired at the non-waiver Trade Deadline from Seattle, where he was used to pitching duels like what seemed to be brewing on Tuesday.

"I thought he put on a clinic," manager Jim Leyland said.

Wednesday, Dirks said, is a new day. As long as Martinez wakes up to see it, he plans on playing. The Tigers don't know about Young. The rest will slog through their various bumps and bruises.

They'll try to use another win to heal.

"You find a way to win somehow," Leyland said. "We did that tonight." Comments