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Detroit (1-0) «10101000x370

Verlander fans 11, Tigers top A's

CBSSports.com wire reports
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DETROIT -- Justin Verlander allowed a home run to the first batter of the game -- and quickly shrugged it off.

This hard-throwing ace doesn't usually hit his stride until a bit later.

Verlander shut down Oakland after that early slip, and Alex Avila homered in the fifth inning to lift the Detroit Tigers over the Athletics 3-1 Saturday night in the opener of their best-of-five AL playoff.

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Verlander allowed three hits in seven innings and matched his career postseason high with 11 strikeouts. As usual, he seemed stronger in the later innings, striking out the side in the sixth and the first two hitters of the seventh. That made up for Coco Crisp's leadoff homer that quieted the Comerica Park crowd just one batter into the game.

"Early on, didn't have great control of any of my pitches," Verlander said. "But I was able to get myself out of jams that I created."

Joaquin Benoit pitched the eighth and Jose Valverde struck out two in a perfect ninth for the save.

Oakland's Jarrod Parker allowed two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings and took the loss.

Game 2 is Sunday, with Doug Fister taking the mound for Detroit and left-hander Tommy Milone for Oakland.

It was only the second victory for Detroit in its last seven postseason series openers. The Tigers lost Game 1 to the Yankees in the division series last year before winning in five. Detroit then lost the opener of the AL championship series to Texas.

After winning their final six games to take the AL West in shocking fashion, the A's made their presence felt right away in Detroit. The home crowd greeted Verlander with a roar and a sea of twirling white towels when he popped out of the dugout and headed to the mound to start the game, but Crisp was unfazed. He pulled Verlander's two-strike fastball just inside the pole in right field to put Oakland on top.

The AL Central-champion Tigers tied it immediately. Austin Jackson's hard-hit ball deflected off diving shortstop Stephen Drew and into short left field. The Detroit leadoff man ended up with a double and went to third when Quintin Berry slapped a single to third off Josh Donaldson, who also could only get a piece of the ball while diving for it.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who went hitless, grounded into a double play, but Jackson came home to make it 1-all.

Drew finally made a diving play in the second, sprawling to his right on Delmon Young's grounder and then throwing to first for the out. At the plate, the A's made Verlander work, forcing him to throw 61 pitches in the first three innings. The Detroit ace struck out Brandon Moss to end the Oakland third with a 99 mph fastball - but Verlander was having to reach back for extra speed early.

"Most good starters, you try to get to them before they get into their rhythm," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "He got better as the game went along. A lot of times your best opportunity is early in the game."

The Athletics tied a postseason record by starting four rookies -- Parker, Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes and Derek Norris.

Parker looked sharp early but allowed another run in the third because of a fielding mishap. With two out and a man on second, Berry chopped a soft grounder to the right side. Parker came off the mound to field it, but with the speedy Berry hustling to first, Parker lost control of the ball with his glove hand for an error that allowed Omar Infante to score.

Avila's solo shot made it 3-1, and the A's couldn't break through against Verlander, even with the reigning MVP's pitch count rising.

Verlander led the majors in strikeouts for the second straight year, and Oakland was baseball's most strikeout-prone team. It showed toward the end of Verlander's outing.

After taking a called third strike for the third out of the sixth -- Verlander's fourth strikeout in five hitters -- Donaldson chirped a bit at plate umpire Jim Reynolds. Verlander was done after one more inning, finishing with 121 pitches and his fourth career postseason win.

Verlander walked four.

Benoit allowed a single in the eighth, followed by a flyout by Moss that Andy Dirks caught at the wall in right field.

"I didn't think it was gone," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I thought he just missed it. And he did just miss it."

Oakland right-hander Pat Neshek, whose newborn son died 23 hours after his birth, came on to relieve Parker in the seventh. He entered with two on and one out but got out of the inning with no further scoring.

Oakland wore patches with the initials GJN. Neshek's son's name was Gehrig John Neshek.

"It was really tough warming up, and I thought about him the entire time. I said yesterday that baseball would be a way to clear my mind, but that didn't happen. He was always there," Neshek said. "I know it is a cliche, but I really felt like I had someone watching me and helping with that last pitch. That was my best slider of the year."

Notes

  • Parker allowed seven hits. He struck out five and walked one.
  • Crisp was 8 for 22 off Verlander entering but with no homers.
  • Cabrera received chants of "MVP" from the fans when he was announced before the game. Oakland 3B Brandon Inge -- a former Tiger -- was also cheered.
  • The temperature was 49 degrees at game time.
  • Moss struck out three times.
  • Arizona started four rookies three times in the 2007 postseason, according to STATS, LLC.
  • Verlander also struck out 11 against the Yankees in last year's division series.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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After giving up a leadoff home run to Coco Crisp, Justin Verlander settles in to pitch an 11-strikeout gem.  (US Presswire)
After giving up a leadoff home run to Coco Crisp, Justin Verlander settles in to pitch an 11-strikeout gem. (US Presswire)

Players of the Game
Detroit

J. Verlander
IP 7.0
H 3
ER 1
BB 4
K 11
Oakland

C. Crisp
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 1
 

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Oakland Athletics
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Coco Crisp, CF4111002 .250
Stephen Drew, SS4010011 .250
Yoenis Cespedes, LF3010102 .333
Brandon Moss, 1B4000033 .000
Josh Reddick, RF3000132 .000
Josh Donaldson, 3B4000031 .000
Seth Smith, DH3000121 .000
Derek Norris, C3000012 .000
   a- George Kottaras, PH1000000 .000
Cliff Pennington, 2B2010111 .500
Totals31141414  
a-fouled out for Norris in the 9th
Batting
2B - Stephen Drew (1, Verlander)
HR - Coco Crisp (1, Verlander)
RBI - Coco Crisp (1)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - Drew-Pennington-Moss, Norris-Pennington
E - Jarrod Parker (1, Misplayed grounder)
Oakland Athletics
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Jarrod Parker (L,0-1) 6.1732151 2.84
Pat Neshek 0.2000010 0.00
Jerry Blevins 1000000 0.00
HBP - Young (by Jarrod Parker)
Pitches-Strikes - Jarrod Parker 96-58, Pat Neshek 8-6, Jerry Blevins 10-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jarrod Parker 4-8, Pat Neshek 1-0
Batters Faced - Jarrod Parker 26, Pat Neshek 2, Jerry Blevins 3
Detroit Tigers
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Austin Jackson, CF4110013 .250
Quintin Berry, LF3020010 .667
   a- Avisail Garcia, PH-RF1000000 .000
Miguel Cabrera, 3B3000100 .000
Prince Fielder, 1B4000002 .000
Delmon Young, DH2000010 .000
Andy Dirks, RF-LF3010001 .333
Jhonny Peralta, SS3000022 .000
Alex Avila, C3121010 .667
Omar Infante, 2B3110001 .333
Totals2937116  
a-lined out for Berry in the 8th
Batting
2B - Austin Jackson (1, Parker), Omar Infante (1, Parker)
HR - Alex Avila (1, Parker)
RBI - Alex Avila (1)
SB - Quintin Berry (1, 2nd base off Parker/Norris)
CS - Delmon Young (1, 2nd base by Parker/Norris)
Team LOB - 4
Detroit Tigers
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Justin Verlander (W,1-0) 73114111 1.29
Joaquin Benoit (H,1) 1100010 0.00
Jose Valverde (S,1) 1000020 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Justin Verlander 119-78, Joaquin Benoit 14-10, Jose Valverde 11-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Justin Verlander 5-5, Joaquin Benoit 1-1
Batters Faced - Justin Verlander 28, Joaquin Benoit 4, Jose Valverde 3
Game Information
Attendance - 43323
Game Time - 2:56
Temperature - 49
Umpires - Home - Jim Reynolds, First Base - Mark Wegner, Second Base - Dana DeMuth, Third Base - Eric Cooper