Detroit’s Justin Verlander struck out 11 batters and surrendered only one run in seven innings to spark the Tigers over Oakland 3-1 on Saturday in a Major League Baseball playoff game.
The Tigers seized a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five American League series with game two Sunday at Detroit. The winner will next face either the Baltimore Orioles or the New York Yankees to a decide a berth in the World Series final.
Oakland’s Coco Crisp opened the scoring in the first inning with a leadoff solo home run off Verlander, but it was one of only three hits the 29-year-old right-hander would allow.
“I felt pretty good,” Verlander said. “I was a little out of sync early but I started finding my pitches and was able to get some outs.”
“We have two games at home. We need to get both of them because Oakland is a tough place to play.”
Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera -- the first Major League Baseball slugger since 1967 to win the “Triple Crown” of season titles in homers, batting average and runs batted in -- knocked in the equalizer later in the first when he grounded into a double play.
That helped Verlander put aside the homer he surrendered to Crisp.
“It’s like a heavyweight fight and in the first round you get popped in the face,” Verlander said. “We came back right away. That’s the sign of a good team.”
The Tigers took the lead in the third when an error by Oakland’s Jarrod Parker allowed Detroit’s Omar Infante to score.
Detroit’s Alex Avila smacked a fastball from Oakland pitcher Jarrod Parker over the left-field wall for a homer in the fifth inning to score the last run.
Oakland relief pitcher Pat Neshek retired the final two Detroit batters in the seventh inning, striking out Austin Jackson to strand two Tigers base runners in an effort that came only three days after his infant son’s death.
Gehrig John Neshek was born on Tuesday and died 23 hours later. The entire A’s team wore a memorial patch bearing the baby’s initials. After retiring Jackson, Neshek tapped the patch on his jersey and looked skyward.