OAKLAND — The Oakland A’s saw their magical, improbable season come to an end Thursday. And it took the American League’s very best to snuff the last bit of life out of them.
Detroit ace right-hander Justin Verlander tossed a complete-game four-hitter in a 6-0 victory that propelled the Tigers into the ALCS against either the New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles in a best-of-seven series set to start Saturday.
Verlander’s Game 5 gem in the ALDS finale included 11 strikeouts among his 122 pitches. The winning pitcher in Game 1, too, Verlander rescue a Detroit team that watched the AL West champion A’s rally from a 2-0 series deficit to force the deciding game.
Leading 2-0 through six innings, the Tigers chased Oakland rookie starter Jarrod Parker in the seventh and gave Verlander some breathing room by batting around to score four runs in the process.
Jhonny Peralta singled, stole second and moved to third on Omar Infante’s second hit of the game, a single to right. A’s second baseman Cliff Pennington got a glove on an Austin Jackson drive that ricocheted into right-center for a run-scoring single after Ryan Cook relieved Parker.
Quintin Berry drew a walk to load the bases, and the third run scored when Miguel Cabrera got hit on the left shoulder on an 0-2 count. Prince Fielder greeted left-hander Jerry Blevins with a run-scoring bloop single to center as the Tigers’ slugger took advantage of Oakland playing its outfield deep.
Delmon Young hit a hard grounder that A’s shortstop Stephen Drew muffed from his knees for an error, allowing Berry to score the final run of the rally.
Verlander made sure there were no late game theatrics from an Oakland team that rallied from a 3-1 deficit the previous night and had 15 walk-off wins this season. Verlander got Coco Crisp to ground to second with two on in the eighth, the only inning in which the A’s touched him for two hits.
The Tigers broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the third.
Infante, the Tigers’ No. 9 hitter, led off with a single and took second on a wild pitch. Jackson doubled over the head of Crisp in center field, scoring Infante. After a sacrifice bunt moved Jackson to third, he scored on Parker’s second wild pitch of the inning.
A’s manager Bob Melvin hoped to score early against Verlander, but that didn’t happen as the Detroit ace found his rhythm from the outset.
Verlander pitched to only two batters over the minimum in the first five innings, allowing two hits and walking one. The regular-season league leader with 239 strikeouts, Verlander struck out seven in five innings.
A’s rookie left fielder Yoenis Cespedes doubled with two outs in the first, but Verlander retired Seth Smith on a comebacker to thwart Oakland’s only threat in its first five at-bats.
Brandon Moss, who walked but was erased trying to advance on a short passed ball in the second, collected Oakland’s second hit in the first five innings with a two-out single in the fifth.
NOTE: Manager Bob Melvin tweaked the A’s lineup, moving DH Seth Smith to the cleanup spot and dropping first baseman Brandon Moss, also a left-handed hitter, to seventh. “We’re just going with the hot hand. … You never know how it’s going to play out, but you might want to get a guy one more at-bat later in the game and Smitty is swinging it pretty good right now.”