OAKLAND When Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander held the Oakland As to just one run in seven innings in Game 1 of their ALDS series, it was easily the best postseason start of the Cy Young Award winners career.That is, until Game 5 happened.Verlander was dazzling on Thursday in Oakland, going the distance in a four-hit shutout while striking out 11 and walking just one. The Tigers eliminated the feisty Athletics, 6-0, just 24 hours after a heartbreaking loss in which they blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth.He has a pair of no-hitters under his belt, but the 29-year-old Verlander called Thursdays performance the biggest moment of his already impressive career.The two no-hitters are obviously up there, but thats something a little bit different. This is a win-or-go-home my team needs me, and I was able to go out there and have one of the better performances Ive had, a champagne-drenched Verlander said after the game. For me, this is number one, personally.While the Tigers were no doubt stunned after Game 4, they were able to take heart in the fact that their ace was available on full rest for the do-or-die game in a hostile environment. They could tell early on that Verlander had his best stuff, and quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning.Centerfielder Austin Jackson, who was 2-for-5 with two RBIs, explains.We had complete confidence in him going into this game, and when you see him working out there and you see him with that bulldog mentality, you feed off of it, Jackson said. And we fed off of it as a team.Manager Jim Leyland said: He had that look in his eyes today. He was determined. He had a complete game look in his eye. And we were thankful to get that.Verlander finished the series with an extraordinary stat line to go along with his 2-0 record. In 16 innings, he surrendered just one earned run (0.56 ERA) and struck out 22 while walking five. The As hit just .130 against him.He knew early in Game 5 that he had his best stuff.My changeup was working well for me tonight. I could tell from the first batter, from Coco Crisp, that it was going to be an effective pitch for me, he said. Its just one of those things as a pitcher, you go out there and see what youve got and whats going to work for you that night. I was hoping my changeup was going to be good with as many lefties as they have. If it was on, I knew it would make it tough on them, and thankfully it was.The Tigers were also able to put Game 4 behind them, and according to Gerald Laird, treated Game 5 as if it were just another day at the office.This game is full of highs and low, and the lows, youve got to get rid of them. Theyve got to be a quick memory, forget about it and get ready for the new day and ride out the highs, he said. Thats why this game is so wonderful, last night they made a good comeback and forced a Game 5, but we knew we had our ace. Probably one of the best, if not the best pitcher in baseball going for us, and I liked our chances.Tigers complimentary of As, Coliseum crowdPerhaps they were just still giddy from their relieving series-clinching win, but the Detroit Tigers had nothing but positive things to say about the Oakland As and their raucous Coliseum crowd.
RATTO: Oakland rekindles love affair with baseball
Jackson shot down one prevailing notion that the As are an unproven bunch that only made it to the playoffs by catching lightning in a bottle.I dont know where people get this inexperienced team or theyre just coming out of nowhere theyre a good team. Theyve got good pitching and good hitters, and it was tough on us, Jackson said. No game that we played this series was easy. We didnt expect anything different from them, theyre a good team.Certainly, they don't have anything to be ashamed of. They were a terrific opponent, Leyland said. And, I just hope that there's no lingering disrespect over the Al Alburquerque situation that happened earlier at our place. We apologized for that, we meant it sincerely, and we would never show anybody up. And I think that's past us, and we had a competitive series and we were fortunate to win it.Some Tigers also seemed a bit surprised that the As fans, which once again packed the Coliseum, were with their team until the final out despite the fact that their club was trailing 6-0 and not showing any signs of life at the plate against a dominant hurler.I think playing here was the toughest atmosphere Ive played in, Verlander said.These fans were unbelievable. They were on their feet from out one to out 27. Weve got some good fans at home, too, but they made it tough to come here and play. Thats what home field is all about.