Tigers blank A's in deciding game on Verlander's gem
Tigers ace throws complete-game shutout
The Oakland A's saw their magical, improbable season come to an end Thursday. And it took the American League's very best to snuff the last bit of life out of them.
Detroit ace Justin Verlander tossed a complete-game four-hitter in a 6-0 victory that propelled the Tigers into the ALCS against either the New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles in a best-of-seven series set to start Saturday.
"When Verlander gets on a roll, especially once he gets into his rhythm and into the middle innings, it's pretty hard to stop him," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It's like a locomotive going at a high speed."
Verlander's Game 5 gem in the ALDS finale included 11 strikeouts among his 122 pitches. The winning pitcher in Game 1, too, Verlander rescue a Detroit team that watched the AL West champion A's rally from a 2-0 series deficit to force the deciding game.
"He had that look in his eye today, he was determined," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I mean, he had a complete-game look in his eye. And we were thankful to get that."
Verlander was consistently throwing his fastball in the mid-90s throughout, but he thought a key was his command of a changeup that was working from the very first batter he faced. He felt as if it was a key to neutralizing an Oakland lineup that featured six left-handed batters in the starting lineup.
"The two no-hitters are something different," Verlander said. "This was win or go home, my team needs me, and I was able to go out there and have one of my better performances. This is No. 1, personally."
Leading 2-0 through six innings, the Tigers chased Oakland rookie starter Jarrod Parker in the seventh and gave Verlander some breathing room by batting around to score four runs in the process. Detroit sent 10 batters to the plate with Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder producing RBI hits while two others scored on a hit batsman with the bases loaded and a wild pitch.
"I told one of my coaches on the bench around the fourth inning that we need a four-spot to take this crowd out of it," Leyland said of Oakland's 36,393 supporters. "We never did take them out of it. They were in it through thick or thin to the end."
Verlander made sure there were no late game theatrics from an Oakland team that rallied from a 3-1 deficit the previous night and had 15 walk-off wins this season. Verlander got Coco Crisp to ground to second with two on in the eighth, the only inning in which the A's touched him for two hits.
"I expected to go nine innings, but at the same time I had faith in the guys behind me regardless of what happened the night before," Verlander said. "In this situation, Game 5, I wanted to go all the way."
The game's hero was also the center of attention in the wet and wild clubhouse celebration afterward.
"It was awesome and horrible at the same time," Verlander kidded about being blinded by the bubbly bath. "Having your teammates surround you and dump champagne on you is something I will never forget."
The Tigers broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the third.
Infante, the Tigers' No. 9 hitter, led off with a single and took second on a wild pitch. Jackson doubled over the head of Crisp in center field, scoring Infante. After a sacrifice bunt moved Jackson to third, he scored on Parker's second wild pitch of the inning.
"We knew coming in it was going to be a tough battle," Jackson said. "You've got to tip your hat to Oakland, what they accomplished this year. This definitely has to be up there with one of the better games we've played this year."
The end came swiftly for an Oakland team that struck out a Division Series record 50 times. The A's have lost eight of the last nine postseason series dating to the 1990 World Series.
Still, no one will look at this as a lost season for Oakland.
"It's a bit of a shock when it finally does end," Melvin said. "But it doesn't feel any better at the end of the day when you're going home, it's a pretty empty feeling.
"Hopefully we can go farther next year."
NOTES: Oakland rookie OF Yoenis Cespedes, who doubled against Verlander in the first, hit safely in all five games of the series. ... Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera went 0-for-4 (and was hit by a pitch for a hard-earned RBI). That ended his 15-game postseason hitting streak. ... Verlander is Detroit's all-time postseason strikeout leader with 70. ... Oakland fell to 0-5 when a Division Series goes the full five games.