With the season on the line once more in Oakland, Justin Verlander pitched another game five gem.
Verlander carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and Miguel Cabrera homered to lead the Detroit Tigers past the Athletics 3-0 and back into the AL championship series.
Joaquin Benoit retired Seth Smith on a fly ball with two on in the ninth to close out the deciding game of their division series. The Tigers became the first team to reach the ALCS in three straight years since the New York Yankees from 1998-2001.
Anibal Sanchez will start game one in Boston on Saturday. The Tigers went 4-3 against the Red Sox this year. They have never faced each other in the postseason.
Detroit staved off elimination at home in game four, overcoming a three-run deficit on Tuesday. Behind Verlander, the Tigers never trailed in the clincher.
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.
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 lead-off home run for the A’s in game one last October.
Just 364 days earlier, Verlander tossed a four-hit, 6-0 masterpiece in game five in this very ballpark, a 122-pitch performance for his first career postseason shutout and complete game.
He nearly matched that with a spectacular 111-pitch outing in a rematch of his thrilling pitcher’s duel with rookie Sonny Gray five days earlier in game two.
“It felt good out there,” Verlander said. “It’s the first time in a while my changeup’s been really good. Obviously this lineup with a bunch of left-handed hitters, that was a big pitch for me.”
Aching slugger Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the fourth off with a drive into the left-field seats for his first homer since September 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.
The 93-win Tigers are determined to take the next step and win a championship after being swept in four games of the 2012 World Series by the San Francisco Giants.
“That’s the motivation that we’ve been looking for, that we’ve had all year,” Verlander said. “Guys like Torii [Hunter] who wasn’t a part of our team last year, he comes in and he’s got that urge. He wants to win that championship before he retires. Everybody else that was here that had a taste of that last year how much it hurts, it’s that extra driving factor.”