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Tigers-A's ALDS Grades: Verlander gets an easy 'A' as Tigers advance

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Once again, Justin Verlander was the man for the Tigers in Game 5.
Once again, Justin Verlander was the man for the Tigers in Game 5. (USATSI)

More: Game 5 box score | Game 5 quick hits | ALCS start times

For the third straight year, the Tigers are going to the ALCS. They beat the Athletics 3-0 in the decisive Game 5 on Thursday thanks in large part to their ace. Or their co-ace. Or maybe their No. 2 starter. I can't really keep track, they have too many great arms. Let's hand out some grades for the full five-game ALDS.

AAfter a mediocre (by his standards) regular season, Justin Verlander held the Athletics to six hits and two walks while striking out 21 in 15 shutout innings across his two ALDS starts. That includes the decisive Game 5. It was the Verlander of old, the guy no one could hit.
BDespite having only 10 regular-season starts (and two relief appearances) to his credit, Sonny Gray matched Verlander zero for zero in Game 2 before giving the A's a chance to win Game 5. The rookie allowed only two runs in 13 innings against one of the best offensive clubs in baseball in a postseason series. That's some mighty fine work by the kid.
C-Outside of the last four innings of Game 4, that high-powered Tigers offense never really showed up in the ALDS. They scored enough to win the series obviously, but they had little breathing room along the way. Seventeen runs in five games -- nine in the four games outside of Game 4 -- isn't what we expect from Detroit, but it got them to the ALCS.
DJosh Donaldson is going to get a ton of AL MVP votes this year and rightfully so, but man was he awful in the ALDS. Like 3 for 21 (.143) with eight strikeouts in the five games awful. Your best players need to be your best players in the postseason, but Donaldson was a black hole in the middle of the Oakland lineup all series.
FCongrats to Austin Jackson for his record-breaking performance in the ALDS. Well, maybe congratulations aren't in order since this is a rather dubious record. Jackson struck out 13 (!) times in the series, passing Brett Boone (11 in 2011) for the most whiffs in ALDS history. He went 2 for 20 in the series overall. Yikes. The Tigers will need him to improve if they want to repeat as AL champs.
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