To say the Oakland Athletics have struggled in elimination games in recent memory would be a pretty big understatement.
In the last twelve games where the Athletics faced a win-or-go home scenario, they’ve went 1-11.
You can now make that 1-12.
Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander pitched flawlessly en route to the Tigers 3-2 series win over the Athletics, throwing eight innings of two hit ball, striking out ten in the process. Verlander went through the first 6 2/3 innings before giving up a hit, a two-out single off the bat of Yoenis Céspedes.
For the Athletics, Oakland’s 23-year-old starter Sonny Gray continued his emergence, though made a lone mistake to the wrong hitter, MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera. Gray, after staying away (as the Athletics did for the vast majority of the series) for the first pitch decided he’d try to sneak a inside fastball by Cabrera, which didn’t work out as well as originally anticipated. The ball seemed to elevate a bit more than Gray wanted, giving Cabrera more than enough leverage to yank the ball down the left field line, clearing the outfield fence by a few feet. The home run gave Detroit a 2-0 lead as moments before Cabrera’s home run, Torii Hunter had singled, breaking up Gray’s three-plus innings of no hit baseball.
That’s where the score remained until the top of the sixth inning when Detroit was able to tack on another run as Omar Infante grounded into a fielder’s choice, giving the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
It was more than enough for Verlander who continued to march through the Oakland lineup, throwing 30 consecutive scoreless innings against the Athletics in the postseason for his career.
Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit took over for Verlander in the ninth, sitting down the first two batters before Jed Lowrie hit a screaming double over shortstop. Yoenis Cespedes followed Lowrie’s double with a hit by pitch, bringing the game-tying run to the plate. Unfortunately for the Athletics, the elusive clutch hit was no place to be found as Benoit got Seth Smith to fly out, preserving the victory.
The win sends Detroit to their third consecutive American League Championship, where they’ll open against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday night.
H/T CorkGaines for the Tigers’ unique celebration.