OAKLAND, Calif. — Justin Verlander ripped off his jersey and rubbed Torii Hunter’s bald head. The Tigers pulled on goggles and popped bubbly, then waited for their straggling slugger. At last, Miguel Cabrera walked through the door to chants of “Miggy! Miggy! Miggy!”
Detroit’s two biggest stars, Verlander and Cabrera, teamed up Thursday night to send the Tigers back to the AL championship series with a 3-0 winner-take-all victory over the Oakland Athletics in their division series.
“We won the game, that’s all it’s about,” Cabrera said. “We want to win a World Series, man, that’s our goal.”
With the season on the line once more in Oakland, Verlander pitched another Game 5 gem by carrying a no-hit bid into the seventh inning. With his body aching, Cabrera contributed all the offense needed in one sweet swing — a two-run homer — as the Tigers eliminated the A’s again.
“I’m pitching the way I’m supposed to. I worked my butt off all year to try to get consistent and get myself where I needed to be,” Verlander said. “I feel like it finally paid off at the end of the year.”
Joaquin Benoit retired Seth Smith on a fly ball with two on in the ninth to close out the deciding game of the series. The Tigers became the first team to reach the ALCS in three straight years since the New York Yankees from 1998-2001.
Anibal Sanchez will start Game 1 in Boston on Saturday. The Tigers went 4-3 against the Red Sox this year, but they have never faced each other in the postseason.
Detroit staved off elimination at home in Game 4, overcoming a three-run deficit on Tuesday. Behind Verlander, the Tigers never trailed in shutting out Oakland in Game 5 for the second straight October.
The big right-hander gave up a clean, two-out single to Yoenis Cespedes in the seventh to end his chance at the third no-hitter in postseason history. The hit hardly fazed him.
“We got pretty close there, seven innings is pretty unbelievable,” catcher Alex Avila said. “To be honest, I thought we had a chance. He had the stuff for it, he had no-hit stuff.”
On a night he allowed only three baserunners, Verlander made it a postseason-record 30 straight scoreless innings against one team since Coco Crisp hit a leadoff homer for the A’s in Game 1 last October.