Verlander pitches Tigers past A's, back to ALCS

By Antonio Gonzalez

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 12 2012 2:31 a.m. MDT

Verlander recorded the most strikeouts in a shutout of a winner-take-all postseason game, topping Sandy Koufax's 10 in the 1965 World Series against Minnesota.

"When you're going into pressure situations like this, there's nobody better to have on the mound than Justin," Jackson said.

Verlander followed up an 11-strikeout outing in Detroit's 3-1 Game 1 win Saturday with another overpowering performance in his 10th postseason start. He improved to 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA in three postseason starts against the A's and upped his career mark to 5-4 with 2.15 ERA in 10 starts at the Coliseum.

Verlander had allowed one earned run with a 0.69 ERA in beating the A's twice during the regular season.

"He's always tough. You go out there and you battle him the best that you can," Crisp said. "Today he had some of his best stuff of the year."

Detroit finally got to party in a visiting clubhouse that for the sixth straight game was prepped for a possible clinch celebration.

The Texas Rangers were in town last week needing one victory to win the AL West but dropped all three to lose the division to the surprising A's in game No. 162.

On Wednesday night, plastic covering the floor and lockers was torn down in all of about 40 seconds after Valverde allowed three runs in the bottom of the ninth as Oakland won with another walkoff in a season full of them.

This time, the Tigers let loose.

Players quickly ran to a table to grab another celebratory bottle when Verlander entered the clubhouse, drenching him in all directions and chanting "Cy Young! Cy Young!"

"It was awesome and horrible at the same time because you can't see a thing," he said. "Your eyes are burning and all I want to do is look up and celebrate with my teammates. And all I can do is look down and shut my eyes."

After Seth Smith grounded out to end the game, the A's stayed on the field to greet the fans who were still on their feet chanting "Let's Go Oakland!" Verlander waved toward the Oakland players in a classy acknowledgment, and Leyland walked over to wish A's manager Bob Melvin well.

Detroit's offense did more than enough to give Verlander a cushion on another relatively quiet night by Cabrera and Fielder, the team's $214 million cleanup hitter who signed as a free agent from Milwaukee in the winter.

Cabrera went five straight games without an RBI on four different occasions during the regular season, but didn't extend that to the playoffs when Ryan Cook plunked him with the bases loaded in the seventh.

The upstart A's were attempting to become the ninth team to rally from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series, but couldn't match the cross-bay Giants after San Francisco won at Cincinnati earlier in the day to reach the NL championship series.

So much for all that chatter about another Bay Bridge World Series in Northern California like the earthquake-interrupted Series in 1989 swept by the A's.

Oakland struck out 50 times in a series of swings and misses after riding high only a week ago, stunning the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers on the regular season's final day to win the AL West. The strikeouts were the most in A's franchise history for a five-game series.

The A's payroll of $59.5 million is lowest in the majors. But the last game was the only lopsided one.

Detroit eliminated Oakland again after the Tigers pulled off a four-game sweep in the 2006 AL championship series.

"We didn't think it was going to end today, not for a second," Melvin said. "We knew we were going up against a good pitcher. That didn't mean we didn't think we were going to win. We've gone up against good pitchers this year. And it's a bit of a shock when it finally does end. It was a heck of a story. It was a heck of a run for us."

The Tigers now look to get through another round after falling in six games to the Rangers in last year's ALCS.

NOTES: Josh Reddick, who hit a team-leading 32 homers, struck out 10 times for the most by an A's player in a postseason series. The only person with more Ks than Reddick in a division series was Seattle's Bret Boone with 11 in 2001. ... The A's have lost eight of their last nine postseason series. ... Cabrera has reached base safely in all 16 of his postseason games with the Tigers. ... Verlander is Detroit's career postseason leader in strikeouts (70) and wins (5).

Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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