DETROIT -- Justin Verlander played the part of a heavyweight boxing champion Saturday night, taking some early punches before dominating the back end of the fight.
The Detroit Tigers ace allowed a home run to Oakland A's center fielder Coco Crisp to begin the game and had thrown 61 pitches through three innings.
However, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera tied the score in the bottom of the first when he grounded into a double play with runners at first and third, and Quintin Berry's speed produced a third-inning run that broke the tie. The Tigers went on to take a 3-1 win in the first game of the American League Division Series at Comerica Park.
Verlander threw 121 pitches in seven innings, walking four and allowing just two more hits after the home run. He gave up a one-out double in the third, then prevented the runner from advancing, and he yielded a leadoff single in the fifth. Two of his walks came in the first two innings.
He struck out 11, including six of the last nine batters he faced.
Oakland drove Verlander out after six innings on Sept. 19, pushing his pitch count to 122 by fouling off 34 pitches, but he still exited a winning pitcher.
The A's exhibited more patience this time, but taking pitches began to backfire when Verlander settled into a rhythm by the fourth.
Joaquin Benoit pitched the eighth for the Tigers and gave the crowd a chill when Brandon Moss drove Andy Dirks back to the right field wall for the second out after Yoenis Cespedes had singled to left with one out. Benoit struck out Josh Reddick to end the inning.
Jose Valverde struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth to earn the save.
Detroit's Omar Infante doubled with one out in the third and scored with two outs because of Berry's speed. Berry topped a ground ball down the first base line, and Oakland pitcher Jarrod Parker couldn't corral the ball. First baseman Moss was coming toward the ball, too, and Parker was caught between trying to catch the ball, which wouldn't have resulted in an out, and flipping the ball to a vacant first base. The ball bounced off Parker's glove and got far enough past first that Infante was able to scoot home uncontested.
Alex Avila hit a solo home run to left leading off the fifth to account for the game's final run. He drove a high, outside, first-pitch fastball over to the opposite field.
Parker wound up pitching 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits.
Oakland reliever Pat Neshek, whose one-day-old son died earlier this week, got two outs in the seventh inning. Jerry Blevins pitched a shutout eighth, as the A's extended their run of stellar relief pitching. The A's bullpen hasn't allowed a run in 24 innings.
Game 2 is Sunday in Detroit.