Verlander pitches Tigers into ALCS
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 on Thursday night to send the Tigers back to the American League Championship Series with a 3-0 winner-takes-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 Five gem by carrying a no-hit bid into the seventh inning. With his body aching, Cabrera contributed all the offence 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 to 2001.
Anibal Sanchez will start Game One in Boston on Saturday. The Tigers went 4-3 against the Red Sox this year, but they have never faced each other in the post-season.
Detroit staved off elimination at home in Game Four, overcoming a three-run deficit on Tuesday. Behind Verlander, the Tigers never trailed in shutting out Oakland in Game Five for the second straight October.
Verlander gave up a clean, two-out single to Yoenis Cespedes in the seventh to end his chance at becoming the third no-hitter in post-season history. The hit hardly fazed him, however.
"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 base runners, Verlander made it a post-season-record 30 straight scoreless innings against one team since Coco Crisp hit a lead-off home run for the A's in Game One last October.
Just 364 days earlier, Verlander tossed a four-hit, 6-0 masterpiece in Game Five in this very ballpark, a 122-pitch performance for his first career post-season shutout and complete game.
"Obviously it's something that you dream about as a kid. It's a win-or-go-home (game), you visualize when you're 10 years old in your backyard, Game Five, Game Seven, gotta win," Verlander said. "It's pretty exciting to have gone out there twice in that scenario and done a good job."
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This article originally appeared on ESPN.com