Masterful Verlander helps Detroit eliminate Oakland
Justin Verlander carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and Miguel Cabrera homered to lead the Detroit Tigers past the Oakland Athletics 3-0 Thursday night and back into the AL Championship Series.
The Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. — Justin Verlander ripped off his jersey and rubbed Torii Hunter’s bald head. The Tigers pulled on goggles and popped bubbly, then waited for their straggling slugger. At last, Miguel Cabrera walked through the door to chants of “Miggy! Miggy! Miggy!”
Detroit’s two biggest stars, Verlander and Cabrera, teamed up Thursday night to send the Tigers back to the AL Championship Series with a 3-0 winner-take-all victory over the Oakland Athletics in their division series.
“We won the game, that’s all it’s about,” Cabrera said. “We want to win a World Series, man, that’s our goal.”
With the season on the line once more in Oakland, Verlander pitched another Game 5 gem by carrying a no-hit bid into the seventh inning. With his body aching, Cabrera contributed all the offense needed in one sweet swing — a two-run homer — as the Tigers eliminated the A’s again.
“I’m pitching the way I’m supposed to. I worked my butt off all year to try to get consistent and get myself where I needed to be,” Verlander said. “I feel like it finally paid off at the end of the year.”
Joaquin Benoit retired Seth Smith on a fly ball with two on in the ninth to close out the deciding game of the series. The Tigers became the first team to reach the ALCS in three straight years since the New York Yankees from 1998 to 2001.
Anibal Sanchez will start Game 1 in Boston on Saturday. The Tigers went 4-3 against the Red Sox this year, but they have never faced each other in the postseason.
Detroit staved off elimination at home in Game 4, overcoming a three-run deficit Tuesday. Behind Verlander, the Tigers never trailed in shutting out Oakland in Game 5 for the second straight October.
The big right-hander gave up a clean, two-out single to Yoenis Cespedes in the seventh to end his chance at the third no-hitter in postseason history. The hit hardly fazed him, however.
“We got pretty close there, seven innings is pretty unbelievable,” catcher Alex Avila said. “To be honest, I thought we had a chance. He had the stuff for it, he had no-hit stuff.”
On a night he allowed only three base runners, Verlander made it a postseason-record 30 straight scoreless innings against one team since Coco Crisp hit a leadoff home run for the A’s in Game 1 last October.
“Obviously it’s something that you dream about as a kid. It’s a win or go home, you visualize when you’re 10 years old in your backyard, Game 5, Game 7, gotta win,” Verlander said. “It’s pretty exciting to have gone out there twice in that scenario and done a good job.”
He nearly matched last year’s shutout with a spectacular 111-pitch outing in a rematch of his thrilling pitcher’s duel with rookie Sonny Gray five days earlier in Game 2.
Aching slugger Cabrera connected in the fourth, a drive into the left-field seats for his first homer since Sept. 17 and just his third extra-base hit in 99 at-bats. That ended a 20-inning scoreless streak by the Tigers at the Coliseum.
Gray danced with danger from the start with stuff not nearly as crisp as just five nights before when he matched zeros with the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
“Everything about it is frustrating. We’re a better team than that,” Vogt said. “We deserved better. We just didn’t get it done.”
Verlander struck out 10 in eight innings, giving him 21 Ks in these two starts. He has 43 strikeouts in his four playoff outings against Oakland the past two years.
The A’s saw their season end at the hands of Detroit for the third time in as many postseasons.
Oakland has lost its last six winner-take-all Game 5s and fell to 1-12 in potential clinchers since 2000. The A’s struck out 57 times for the most in a best-of-five playoff series.