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Verlander pitches Tigers past A's and back to the ALCS: Quick hits

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

The Tigers are going back to the ALDS, thanks again to Justin Verlander.
The Tigers are going back to the ALCS, thanks again to Justin Verlander. (USATSI)

More: Game 5 box score | ALCS start times

For the third straight year and fourth time in the last eight years, the Tigers are going to the ALCS. They beat the Athletics in Game 5 on Thursday night by the score of 3-0, the second straight season Oakland has pushed them to the limit in the ALDS. Let's break down the game.

Hero: Justin Verlander, easily. He dominated the Athletics in ALDS Game 5 last year and did it again this year. Verlander took a perfect game into the sixth and a no-hitter into the seventh before Yoenis Cespedes spoiled the party with a single back up the middle. In a winner-take-all game, Verlander came up huge for Detroit. Again.

Goat: I honestly don't think there is one, but the rules say we need a goat, so let's pick a goat. Sonny Gray allowed three runs on six hits and four walks in only five innings of work, but he really battled despite being at something less than his best. A's manager Bob Melvin could have started Bartolo Colon instead though, so maybe he should be the goat. Oakland's two through six hitters went a combined 2-for-14 with nine strikeouts in Game 5, so maybe they're the goat. What about the three hitters (Josh Reddick, Stephen Vogt, Alberto Callaspo) who failed to get a run home against Max Scherzer despite having the bases loaded with no outs in the eighth inning of Game 4? If they get it done there, they wouldn't have even had to play a Game 5. You can make a case for any of them, but I'll go with Gray. Begrudgingly. Kid left it all on the field.

Turning point: Verlander and Gray traded zeros for the first three innings, so Miguel Cabrera's two-run homer in the fourth was the big momentum shifter. The reigning AL MVP has been banged up and everyone was waiting for him to do something big in this series, and I think the game-winning homer in the decisive Game 4 qualifies.

It was over when: The Athletics got the tying run to the plate with two outs in the ninth, so it wasn't over until it was actually over, when Seth Smith flew out to right field for the 27th out.

Next: An ALCS date with the Red Sox for a chance to go to the World Series. That series begins Saturday night and Jon Lester will be on the bump for Boston. Either Max Scherzer or Anibal Sanchez figures to get the ball for the Tigers.

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