Verlander powers Tigers into second consecutive ALCS

OAKLAND -- They took the hard way. Same as they did all summer.

But in the end, riding Justin Verlander, they finally arrived at their desired destination. Same as they did all summer.

It's how these Tigers roll. But let me tell you this: The celebration was not any more tame, the champagne was not any less bubbly, after they finally eliminated the Oakland A's with a 6-0 Game 5 cruise.

Armed with Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Verlander and assorted others, we expected them to run away from the AL Central this summer. But the White Sox chased them almost to the end.

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Pouncing to a 2-0 series lead in Detroit, we expected them to sprint straight into their second consecutive AL Championship Series. But the Athletics chased them down in Oakland, delivered a crushing Game 4 blow and forced an anything-could-happen Game 5.

But with Verlander on the hill, the boys from Motown rocked it to the two-decades-old tune of the man whom the A's brought back to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

You can't touch this.

Hammer Time.

In winning both Game 1 and Game 5, Verlander became the first pitcher in Tigers franchise history to produce multiple 10-plus strikeout games in one postseason series. In this series, he went 2-0 with an 0.56 ERA.

Over his past six starts, he's 6-0 with an 0.61 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 44 innings pitched.

He is on a roll, back to his hybrid Cy Young/Most Valuable Player 2011 self. The only negative on Thursday night was that by blowing the Game 4 lead in the ninth inning on Wednesday, the Tigers will not be able to use Verlander in Game 1 of the ALCS Saturday against either the Yankees or Orioles.

But that's a small price to pay for advancing to their second consecutive ALCS.

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