Justin Verlander pitched Detroit to victory in a decisive Game 5 in Oakland for the second consecutive year, sending the Tigers to Boston for a showdown with the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.
Verlander allowed two hits in eight scoreless innings and Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer as the Tigers reached their third consecutive ALCS with a 3-0 win last night at the Athletics. They won the division series three games to two.
Verlander, 30, has now thrown 30 consecutive scoreless postseason innings against Oakland, the longest such streak for a starting pitcher against a single club in Major League Baseball history. The record of 28 innings had been held by the New York Giants’ Christy Mathewson in 1905 and 1911 against the Philadelphia Athletics.
“Justin rises to the occasion, he was locked in tonight,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He did it for us here last year, and he did it again tonight.”
The Tigers-Red Sox best-of-seven ALCS starts tomorrow at Boston, which eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays in four games in the division round. The National League Championship Series begins tonight with the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I don’t know how it happens, but we’ve been able to celebrate a few times in this ballpark,” Leyland said in a news conference. “This Oakland team is a very tough team. Now we’re going to play a tough, tough more veteran team.”
Verlander, who threw a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in a Game 5 division win at Oakland last year, was almost as good this time. He only allowed three hitters to reach base and struck out 10 before Joaquin Benoit took over in the ninth, getting three outs for the save.
“It’s something that you dream about as a kid,” Verlander told reporters. “It’s a win-or-go-home, you visualize that when you’re 10 years old in your backyard.”
The A’s didn’t have a baserunner until Josh Reddick walked with one out in the sixth inning. Their first hit came in the seventh on a two-out single by Yoenis Cespedes, and Reddick singled with two outs in the eighth.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said his hitters struggled with Verlander’s fastball throughout the game, which started in late-afternoon shadows at 5:08 p.m.
“I thought maybe when it started to get darker we would get better swings,” Melvin said. “Our fans were just waiting for a reason to get into a frenzy -- two balls in a row and you could hear them plenty.”
After Verlander and A’s starter Sonny Gray each went through the lineup once without allowing a hit, the Tigers got four hits and two runs in the fourth on Cabrera’s home run.
Detroit added a run in the sixth on a run-scoring groundout by Omar Infante.
The A’s have now lost their last six winner-takes-all games, including last year’s Game 5 against the Tigers. The last time they won such a game was in the 1973 World Series against the New York Mets.
Oakland, whose batters struck out 57 times in the five games to set a division-series record, has lost nine of its last 10 postseason series.
“Our guys are frustrated with the way the game went and some of the at-bats,” said Melvin, whose team won the AL West division title for the second straight season. “We expected to go a little further than this, this year.”