OAKLAND, Calif. — Justin Verlander did it again, beating the Oakland Athletics in Game 5 of an American League Division Series for the second straight season.
The Tigers did it again, advancing to the American League Championship Series for the third consecutive season.
The Tigers beat the A’s, 3-0, on Thursday night at O.co Coliseum in the deciding game of the ALDS. The Tigers will move on to face the Red Sox in the ALCS starting Saturday in Boston.
The Tigers became the first team to advance to the ALCS in three consecutive years since the Yankees did from 1998 to 2001.
With the Tigers’ season on the line, Verlander and Miguel Cabrera delivered.
Verlander didn’t allow a baserunner until the sixth inning, when he gave up a one-out walk to Josh Reddick.
Verlander went 6 2/3 innings with a no-hit bid until Yoenis Cespedes broke it up with a single to center. Cespedes extended his postseason hitting streak to 10 games.
“Yeah, there were thoughts of a no-hitter,” Verlander said. “I shoved those in the back of my mind. I think you see guys have no-hitters late in a game and give up a hit and the wheels kinda fall off, and you get erratic and you see that all the time.
“There is so much stuff going on that you can’t let a hit late in the game change your focus.”
Verlander gave up his second hit of the game on a two-out single to Reddick in the eighth. He allowed two hits and one walk over eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts.
In the two games he pitched against the A’s in the ALDS, Verlander allowed six hits, two walks and went 15 shutout innings with 21 strikeouts. Joaquin Benoit came in to pitch the ninth for the Tigers, getting the save.
“Seven innings is pretty unbelievable,” Alex Avila said of Verlander’s no-hit bid. “To be honest I thought we had a chance. I mean, he had the stuff for it.”
Almost lost in Verlander’s mastery of the A’s was the return of Cabrera’s home-run stroke.
Cabrera gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning with a two-run home run to left off A’s rookie Sonny Gray.
Torii Hunter singled to center for the first hit of the game in the fourth for the Tigers.
The crowd booed Cabrera as he stepped to the plate. He gave them something to boo about two pitches later, pulling a 94 mph fastball just beyond the leftfield fence.
It was the first home run hit by Cabrera, who has been playing through injury, since Sept. 17.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead and Cabrera extended his major-league record of reaching safely in 29 consecutive postseason games.
With two RBIs, Cabrera now has 21 in his postseason career with the Tigers, one shy of the club record held by Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg.
With two outs in the fourth, Gray loaded the bases, giving up back-to-back walks to Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta, before walking Avila.
Gray fell behind 2-0 in the count to Omar Infante, who fouled off consecutive pitches before grounding out to shortstop. Gray was up to 74 pitches after four innings for the A’s.
After giving up the home run to Cabrera in the fourth, Gray intentionally walked him with two outs and Don Kelly on second in the fifth inning. Prince Fielder then grounded out on a comebacker.
Gray’s night came to an end after allowing back-to-back singles to Martinez and Peralta with none out in the sixth.
Martinez came home to score on a ground out to short by Infante, giving the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
Gray allowed six hits, four walks, three earned runs with three strikeouts. He had limited the Tigers to four hits over eight scoreless innings as the A’s won 1-0 in Game 2 on Saturday.
A’s manager Bob Melvin chose to pitch Gray over 40-year-old Bartolo Colon in the deciding game.
The teams combined for one baserunner over the first three innings.
“He was on it early,” Melvin said of Verlander. “We weren’t getting very good swings on him. I thought maybe when it started to get darker, we would get better swings, but he kept throwing fastballs.”