I'm not sure there's a better big-game pitcher in MLB than Justin Verlander.
Behind the right arm of the 2011 AL MVP Verlander, the Detroit Tigers advanced to the American League Championship Series after a 6-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics in Game 5 of the ALDS. Who the Tigers will play remains to be seen as the Baltimore Orioles beat the New York Yankees to tie the series at two apiece.
It was a record-setting night for Verlander, who came out of the gates dealing, fanning three of the first five hitters he faced on his way to a four-hit, 11 strikeout shutout of the A's. ESPN's Numbers Never Lie supplied to key statistic of the night for us:
22. Justin Verlander's 22 strikeouts vs. A's is the most ever in the division series.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) October 12, 2012
Austin Jackson got the scoring going for the Tigers in the top of the third, lacing a double to deep left center that scored Omar Infante to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. Jackson would later score on a wild pitch via A's starting rookie Jarrod Parker in what would be all of the offense Verlander needed on Thursday night.
Detroit tacked on four more runs in the seventh, with Jackson, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Delmon Young all being credited with RBI in the breakout inning.
Parker was credited with four of the Tigers' runs, who went 6.1 innings, surrendered seven hits, walked one and struck out six. Detroit then blew it open against reliever Ryan Cook, who allowed two runs on one walk and one hit without recording an out.
Oakland did a great job of keeping Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera in check, as Cabrera went 0-for-4 in the deciding game, with his RBI coming on a HBP in the seventh inning, but it didn't matter.
There was no Moneyball magic to be seen in the Coliseum from Oakland tonight, as ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose noted.
Dear Oakland A's , you are facing elimination 2night. Where is the "Moneyball" hype? Tigers leading 6-0 bottom 7th. #mlb— JALEN ROSE (@JalenRose) October 12, 2012
The Tigers were able to oust a hot A's team that came into the postseason scorching after stealing the division away from the Texas Rangers. And unfortunately for Oakland, it ran into an unstoppable Verlander on the mound.
As if Verlander's dominance on the mound wasn't enough, Cook's seventh-inning debacle pretty much deflated any chance the Athletics had at a comeback.
The Tigers will have to wait until Friday night to find out who they're playing in the ALCS, but for tonight they can hang their hats on the fact that they've made it to the Championship Series in back-to-back seasons.
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