Memo to the Oakland A's: Avoid Justin Verlander at all costs in the postseason. The Detroit Tigers' star pitcher completely shut down the Athletics offense Thursday night, taking a no-hitter into the seventh and leading the Tigers to a 3-0 victory. Detroit advances to their third consecutive American League Championship Series, where they'll face the Boston Red Sox. Game 1 is Saturday.
It was all Verlander, who for the second straight year dismantled the A's in an ALDS Game 5. A season ago, he beat Oakland 6-0 in the decisive game, striking out 11 and giving up four hits. He was just as dominant on Thursday night. He pitched eight innings, giving up only two hits and striking out 10. He walked one batter and didn't allow a runner past second base. Yoenis Cespedes broke up Verlander's no-hitter with a single up the middle.
Verlander continued his utter dominance of the A's in the postseason, where he has pitched 31 consecutive scoreless innings against them.
Miguel Cabrera awoke from his September slumber by depositing a Sonny Gray pitch over the left-field fence to put the Tigers up 2-0 in the fourth inning. It was only his third extra-base hit in September and October.
• Sonny Gray started off well for the A's. He didn't allow a hit through three innings. But then the fourth inning came. That's when Cabrera homered. Gray threw 33 pitches in the inning, allowing four hits and those two runs. He had thrown only 41 pitches total in the three previous innings. He lasted five innings, giving up three runs on six hits and walking four.
• The Oakland offense. No further explanation necessary.
Cabrera's homer took care of the Detroit offense. About the closest thing Verlander had to a "jam" on Thursday night was a two-out confrontation against Game 2 hero Stephen Vogt with a runner on first base. There was a bit of drama in the ninth, as closer Joaquin Benoit got the call out of the bullpen to replace Verlander. He allowed a double to Jed Lowrie and he hit Cespedes to bring the tying run to the plate, but Benoit got the final out.
• Victor Martinez, with three hits on Thursday night, finished the series 6-for-9 since his confrontation with A's closer Grant Balfour in Game 3
• The A's have lost six consecutive Game 5s in the ALDS.
• Gray hadn't walked more than three batters in any start this season.
• Verlander's dominating performance. If he continues to be this good in the postseason, how scared should the Red Sox be?
• Would Jose Iglesias, the better defensive Detroit shortstop, have made a play on Cespedes single that broke up the no-hitter? Detroit started Jhonny Peralta for his bat.
• The A's losing to Verlander in consecutive years in ALDS Game 5s.
• Are Kate Upton heads the new good-luck charm for Justin Verlander?
The Tigers advance to face the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. Game 1 is 8 p.m. ET Saturday at Fenway Park. It will air on Fox TV. The Red Sox are expected to start Jon Lester in Game 1. Detroit most likely will counter with Anibal Sanchez.