Baseball-Tigers advance to League Championship Series

Reuters

* Verlander takes no-hitter into seventh

* Advance to AL Championship Series against Red Sox (Adds quotes, details)

Oct 10 (Reuters) - Justin Verlander maintained his mastery of the Oakland Athletics, pitching brilliantly in a 3-0 win on Thursday that put the visiting Detroit Tigers into the American League Championship Series for the third year in a row.

Backed by a two-run homer by Miguel Cabrera, Verlander yielded just two hits in eight innings and ran his consecutive scoreless innings streak in the playoffs against Oakland to 32 as Detroit won the deciding Game Five for a 3-2 victory in their AL Division Series.

"He was the Verlander of old, he was the MVP and Cy Young (winner) that everybody knows him as," said Tigers right-fielder Torii Hunter. "He was awesome. When Miguel got that two-run homer, he took it home from there."

The triumph earned the Tigers a trip to Boston for Saturday's start of a best-of-seven against the Red Sox to produce the American League representative in the World Series.

The National League Championship Series pits the St. Louis Cardinals against the Los Angeles Dodgers beginning on Friday.

Verlander said he and his team mates were determined to get another crack at MLB's grand prize after being swept in four games in last year's Fall Classic by the San Francisco Giants.

"That's the motivation that we've had all year," said Verlander. "Everybody here who had a taste of that last year and how much it hurts, it's that extra driving factor."

Last year's Triple Crown winner Cabrera, who had hit only one home run since August as he struggled with injuries, connected in the fourth off A's rookie starter and loser Sonny Gray with Hunter aboard to give Verlander all the support he would need.

"That was a huge turning point in the game and it was nice to see Miggy do it," Verlander said.

After posting an inconsistent 13-12 mark this season, Verlander has been his familiar, dominant self in the playoffs and retired the first 16 batters he faced before walking Josh Reddick in the sixth.

The first hit off the right-hander was a sharp single up the middle by Cuban Yoenis Cespedes with two outs in the seventh.

Verlander said he was aware of the no-hit bid, but kept it in perspective.

"I knew what was going on, obviously. But you know a lot of guys give up no-hitters late in games and all of the sudden the wheels fall off," he said. "I didn't want to focus on that too much.

"I told myself after giving up that hit, just focus. Don't worry about that. Who cares about the no-hitter? We have bigger things going on here."

Verlander had a good change-up, curve and slider working, but said he concentrated on his fastball and worked off that.

"His fastball was just electric today," catcher Alex Avila said.

Verlander had thrown 111 pitches through eight innings before giving way to closer Joaquin Benoit, who escaped a threat in the bottom of the ninth.

Benoit gave up a two-out double to Jed Lowrie and hit Cespedes with a pitch before getting potential tying run Seth Smith to fly out to right to end it.

Verlander, who struck out 10 and walked only one, began his streak against Oakland by winning the first and fifth games of last year's division series, and had a no decision in Game Two of this series despite throwing seven shutout innings.

"I think their pitching really kept us at bay," said Oakland shortstop Lowrie. "We fought really hard against them, but in the end we didn't score enough against them to win." (Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Patrick Johnston)

View Comments