By Janie McCauley
OAKLAND, Calif.: Justin Verlander pitched another Game 5 gem in Oakland while carrying a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, and Miguel Cabrera homered to lead the Detroit Tigers past the Athletics 3-0 Thursday night and back into the American League Championship Series.
Joaquin Benoit retired Seth Smith on a fly ball with two on in the ninth to close out the deciding game of their division series. The Tigers became the first team to reach the ALCS in three straight years since the New York Yankees from 1998-2001.
Game 1 is Saturday in Boston. The Tigers went 4-3 against the Red Sox this year. They have never faced each other in the postseason.
Verlander gave up a clean, two-out single to Yoenis Cespedes in the seventh to end his chance at the third no-hitter in postseason history. The hit hardly fazed him.
On a night he allowed only three base runners, Verlander made it a postseason-record 30 straight scoreless innings against one team since Coco Crisp hit a leadoff home run for the A’s in Game 1 last October.
Just 364 days earlier, Verlander tossed a four-hit, 6-0 masterpiece in Game 5 in this very ballpark, a 122-pitch performance for his first career postseason shutout and complete game.
He nearly matched that with a spectacular 111-pitch outing in a rematch of his thrilling pitcher’s duel with rookie Sonny Gray five days earlier in Game 2.