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Ventura reflects on would-be first walk-off slam

Ventura reflects on would-be first walk-off slam

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Ventura reflects on would-be first walk-off slam
CHICAGO -- Nelson Cruz's 11th-inning grand slam Monday in Game 2 of the 2011 American League Championship Series sent the crowd in Arlington, Texas, into a state of euphoria and gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead over the Tigers in the best-of-seven competition.

The blast down the left-field line, marking the first walk-off grand slam in postseason history, was not witnessed by new White Sox manager Robin Ventura.

"No," Ventura said with a wry smile. "But I did get a text that I'm getting [ripped off]."

Why would Ventura sarcastically comment about losing his place in Major League Baseball history to Cruz? Well, if not for a technicality during the 1999 NLCS, Ventura would have had the grand-slam glory and Cruz would have been the runner-up.

The Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead in that series against Ventura's Mets, but New York rallied to win Game 4. In Game 5 on Oct. 17, the Mets trailed by a 3-2 margin in the bottom of the 15th inning with Braves reliever Kevin McGlinchy on the mound.

Shawon Dunston began what turned out to be the game-winning rally with a single, swiped second base and stayed there when pinch-hitter Matt Franco walked. Edgardo Alfonzo bunted over both runners, and John Olerud was intentionally walked.

Todd Pratt drew a four-pitch walk to force home the tying run, setting the stage for Ventura. He jumped ahead in the count at 3-0, and when given the green light to swing, he launched the game-winning grand slam to deep right-center.

But Ventura never received credit for the home run. Pinch-runner Roger Cedeno scored the game-winning fourth run, but Pratt stopped at second and turned to celebrate with Ventura as the team charged on to the field.

Since Ventura never moved past first base and never ran out the full hit, a requirement to receive credit in this situation, he was only credited with a single and the one RBI. So Cruz gets the place in the baseball record books, and while Ventura extended the Mets' postseason through his majestic drive, he was left to think, "What if?"

"I saw it this morning on the news, and they were saying it was the first time ever," Ventura said. "I looked at my wife [Stephanie] and said, 'I don't think so.' Technically, yes."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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