The Detroit Tigers gutted out a crucial 3-1 victory in Game 1 over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night in a tight matchup that went down to the wire.
Justin Verlander opened his 2012 playoff run with a bang and proved his reigning AL MVP status with a dominating performance on the mound, giving up just three hits and one earned run on a first-inning home run from Coco Crisp.
That home run would end up being the only scoring play for the A's on the day.
The Athletics also received a solid pitching performance from Jarrod Parker, but he gave up two earned runs and committed a fielding error that gave the Tigers their other run.
Alex Avila notched Detroit's only RBI of the game on a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning off Parker.
The Tigers now lead the crucial five-game series, 1-0.
ESPN's Buster Olney made an impressive prediction after the first two innings, when the Tigers were tied 1-1 with the A's.
Verlander at 42 pitches through two innings, but he looks like he's beginning to settle in.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 6, 2012
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's game, this series got some notable publicity prior to the first pitch, as popular ESPN hothead Skip Bayless picked the A's to win it all.
Heart over head pick: Oakland A's win it all.Know/respect Billy Bean. Love to see "Moneyball" with a real happy ending. Movie misleading.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 6, 2012
Hometown favorite and Lions head coach Jim Schwartz gave his local baseball team some love on Twitter, noting his team's bye week as an opportunity.
With Bye weekend, really glad to be watching @tigers for entire game for the first time since before training camp.— Jim Schwartz (@jschwartzlions) October 7, 2012
It sure was Verlander's game, and ESPN Stats & Info gave us a nice statistic on his recent dominance.
Justin Verlander is the 1st pitcher with 11 or more strikeouts in 7 IP or fewer in an AL postseason game since Pedro Martinez in 1999.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 7, 2012
Grades for Key Tigers Players
Miguel Cabrera: C
Cabrera is certainly a cog in the Tigers' lineup after his Triple Crown season that broke numerous records, but he didn't have a great start to his 2012 postseason.
The Tigers slugger finished 0-for-3 but got on base with a walk.
Detroit will need more production from Cabrera when it doesn't have a pitcher of Verlander's caliber to back it up.
Justin Verlander: A
You don't get much better than Justin Verlander's Game 1 on Saturday.
Detroit's ace pitched a three-hit game and shut the A's out after the first inning, when he gave up a home run to Coco Crisp. That'd be the only blemish on an otherwise seemingly perfect game.
If Verlander keeps this up, you can pencil in an automatic win every game that he's on the mound this postseason.
Prince Fielder: C-
Fielder didn't do much with his opportunity to appear in his first postseason game as a Detroit Tiger.
He finished 0-for-4 on the day and couldn't get his bat going.
Just like Cabrera, Fielder is a crucial component of this offense, and the Tigers will suffer if he continues to go hitless.
Grades for Key A's Players
Jarrod Parker: B-
It's not easy to keep sluggers like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hitless, but Jarrod Parker did just that on Saturday.
However, he still gave up two earned runs and committed a costly error that would end up giving the Tigers a run.
Parker's performance would garner a win in most games, but unfortunately, he had to face Justin Verlander.
Coco Crisp: B+
Coco Crisp's first-inning home run did a lot to set the stage for the rest of the game, but his teammates couldn't convert on the early momentum swing once Verlander heated up his arm.
However, hitting a home run on Verlander when he's pitching at this caliber is grounds for a round of applause, at the least.
Yoenis Cespedes: B-
The Oakland slugger finished with a hit and a walk in four plate appearances but couldn't do much against the dominating pitching performance of Verlander.
It's early in this series, but Cespedes needs to right his wrongs and help be the productive cleanup hitter that Oakland thrived on throughout the regular season.
The A's will stick around in Detroit for Game 2 on Sunday, which will start at 12:07 p.m. ET.
After going down 1-0 on the road, Oakland will be thirsty to get the win and even the series at one game apiece.