Justin Verlander Cements Superstar Status with Complete Game Shutout of A's

Josh Berenter@JBerenterCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 11:  Pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers reacts after Coco Crisp #4 of the Oakland Athletics to ground out to end the eighth inning in Game Five of the American League Division Series at O.co Coliseum on October 11, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Oakland Athletics had all the momentum and every reason to believe the American League Division Series was theirs.

But for some reason, after Detroit's bullpen collapsed in Game 4—allowing Oakland to erase a 3-1 deficit in the ninth inning and force a decisive Game 5—Tigers fans had a sense of calm.

That reason was Justin Verlander.

The defending AL MVP went before a raucous O.co Coliseum crowd and completely shut down the A's.

In his second start in the 2012 ALDS, Verlander threw a complete-game shutout, allowing just four hits while striking out 11 batters and walking one.

The Tigers scored six runs in Game 5, which was the highest-scoring output for either team in the ALDS, but Verlander didn't need them. He had 22 strikeouts in his two starts against Oakland, which was an ALDS record, and didn't allow a leadoff batter to reach base until the ninth inning in Thursday's win.

Verlander also became the 16th pitcher in baseball history to throw 11 strikeouts in a postseason complete-game shutout.

His complete game was his seventh of the season and he is the first Tiger to throw a complete-game shutout in the playoffs since 1972.

Behind his 2-0 record in the 2012 ALDS, Verlander and the Tigers move on to play the winner of the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles series.

The Yankees and Orioles will play their own Game 5 Friday. If the Yankees win, they will have home-field advantage against the Tigers in the AL Championship Series, which begins Saturday.

But if the Orioles win, the Tigers will have home-field advantage, hosting Game 1 of the ALCS at Comerica Park.

The Tigers advance to the ALCS for the third time in the last seven years and hope to reach the World Series for the first time since 2006.