Detroit's Max Scherzer and Texas' Derek Holland both were Game 2 winners in the AL Division Series and came out of the bullpen in their teams' respective clinching games.
They'll return to their starting roles as the clubs follow up Saturday's ALCS-opening 3-2 victory by Texas at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, following up on a great opening act to the matchup.
"What's happened with the Wild Card races and now with the playoffs like it is, I think it's been extremely good for baseball," Rangers president Nolan Ryan said. "It has put us on the forefront of the sports page with a lot of people talking about the games that have been played."
Justin Verlander and C.J. Wilson made for a strong Game 1 matchup, but it turned out to be a battle of bullpens after a pair of fifth-inning rain delays, ending with Neftali Feliz's save in the early-morning hours.
Then came more precipitation, which the Tigers watched from their hotel windows while absorbing the news that outfielder Magglio Ordonez has been lost for the rest of the postseason with a broken right ankle.
Through it all, Detroit manager Jim Leyland has offered his usual upbeat attitude.
"We're in the playoffs," Leyland said. "We're playing the Texas Rangers for the championship. I love it. This is a great opportunity for us to show how tough we are. And we're tough."
Holland will get back to starting after performing a little bonus duty out of the bullpen in the decisive Game 4 of the Rangers' ALDS with the Rays, hurling 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
He had beaten Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS, allowing three runs (one earned) over five innings to log his second career postseason victory, and this time around, the circuit has been much smoother for Holland.
"Last year, I didn't really know what to expect, how to handle anything," Holland said. "I have a better idea, especially after being around with Cliff [Lee]. C.J. [Wilson] has been helping me big time this year in how to handle myself as a starter."
Holland was 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA in 32 starts this year, but he did not face Detroit.
"The Tigers are a good ballclub," Holland said. "They beat the Yankees and everything. You still have to go out there and have your 'A' game, I think."
Scherzer, meanwhile, is heading back to the mound for the first time since throwing 32 pitches in Thursday's ALDS clincher against the Yankees. He bailed the Tigers out of a 1-0 series hole with a Game 2 gem in New York, and he'll be looking to reprise that.
"When the postseason came around, this was the best I felt all year with my stuff," Scherzer said. "To be able to go out there and help the team out in a must-win game, this is as good as it gets."
Maybe there's more on tap for Scherzer; he'd be set to see action in Game 6, should the series get that far.
Scherzer was 15-9 with a 4.43 ERA in 33 regular-season starts, and Detroit beat Texas all three times he pitched, though Scherzer actually only logged one win against the Rangers (June 6 in Arlington).
"I go out there and approach it the same every single time," Scherzer said. "That's for me to execute pitches."
Teams holding a 1-0 lead in the ALCS own a slight advantage; over 41 previous matchups, the team jumping ahead in the series has gone on to win it 24 times, or in 59 percent of the series played.
"You know, it's not easy to get back to this point," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "When Spring Training started, we were the defending American League champions. Now we get that opportunity again."
The Tigers aren't frightened by that, and they'd gladly take their chances with 41 percent odds.
What they need to rectify is leaving runners in scoring position; after feasting in those chances during the regular season, they were 1-for-7 in those spots in Game 1, leaving nine men on base.
"All year, one through nine, we've been very productive," Detroit's Alex Avila said. "A lot of quality at-bats, a lot of two-out RBIs, a lot of getting the runners over, sacrifice flies, things like that. That's just something that has to continue for us to win games and win this series."