(Sports Network) - Justin Verlander was terrific for the Detroit Tigers in
Game 1 of the American League Division Series. On Sunday, they try to take a
commanding lead to Oakland when they play Game 2 against the Athletics at
Verlander struck out 11 batters over seven splendid innings and Alex Avila
went 2-for-3 with a solo home run to power Detroit to a 3-1 victory on
"He's that bona fide No. 1 starter," Avila said of Verlander. "When he's out
there, you have a really good feeling you're going to win the game. When he
gets in that groove and can put the ball wherever he wants at 77 mph to 97
mph, that's just really tough for a hitter. When he's on like that, you tip
your cap to him."
Verlander (1-0) gave up a home run to Coco Crisp to begin the contest, but
yielded just two hits afterward while working around four walks for the AL
Central champion Tigers. The 2011 AL Cy Young Award recipient's strikeout
total matched a career-high for a postseason appearance.
Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde finished off the win with a scoreless inning
each as Detroit shut down the red-hot A's, who completed an improbable rally
from a 13-game deficit in the AL West to overtake Texas for the division
title. The A's won their final six outings of the regular season and swept a
three-game set from the Rangers to close out the schedule.
"We did a lot of good things tonight," Tigers manager Jim Leyland remarked.
"It was a nice clean game for both teams, really, and a good baseball game,
good playoff game."
Jarrod Parker (0-1), one of 12 rookies on Oakland's 25-man roster for this
series, allowed three runs -- two earned -- and fanned five over 6 1/3
The young right-hander also committed a costly fielding error in the bottom of
the third that allowed the Tigers to score the eventual deciding run.
"We're not worrying," A's outfielder Josh Reddick said. "We've done well
against people all year when we've been down one game, so we're not going to
fret over it, panic. We can still take one here tomorrow and go home with
that. That's what we plan to do."
Getting the start for the Tigers in Game 2 will be righty Doug Fister, who is
starting to resemble the pitcher who was so solid for the Tigers in the second
half of last season.
Fister battled through injuries for most of the first half of this year, but
was 8-4 after the All-Star break with a 2.67 ERA. Two of those wins were
complete games, including a seven-hit shutout of the Twins on Sept. 22.
Quietly, his second half numbers mimicked both Verlander, who was 8-3 with a
2.73 ERA over the same stretch, and Max Scherzer, who was 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA.
Overall he was 10-10 with a 3.45 ERA.
"You know, as of right now it's just a matter of there's been some ups and
downs and trying to continually fine tune and take the steps in the right
direction that I need to and keeping consistent," Fister said. "Coming into
spring training, every year my mentality is I'm going to try to be as
consistent as possible every day. And unfortunately this year I've had some
injuries that have kept me out periodically."
Fister has faced the A's 11 times and is 5-4 with a 2.45 ERA against them.
Oakland, meanwhile, will rely on another rookie on Sunday in 25-year-old lefty
Milone, picked up this winter from Washington for lefty Gio Gonzalez, was
tremendous for the A's this season and went 13-10 with a 3.74 ERA.
Both he and Parker set an Oakland record for most victories by a rookie.
"We want to be in big situations," Milone said. "We've done it all year. It's
nothing different now. Just go out there and try to remember to play your
game. You can't really do too much. For me, I can't go out there and try to
throw 95 (mph). It's just not gonna work.
Milone made two starts against the Tigers this season. He beat them the first
time he saw them, but Detroit rocked him in his other go-around, reaching for
three runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings of a no-decision.
"They're good," Milone said of the Tigers. "They swing a lot, so they're
really aggressive. We've just got to make pitches. We've been doing it all
year, so we've just got to continue to do that ... keep it low in the zone and
have them hit it on the ground."
Detroit won four of its seven regular season matchups with the A's, most
recently taking two of three from them in mid-September, and outscored them
18-4 in winning the first two games.
These teams have met twice in the postseason, but this is the first
meeting since the Tigers defeated Oakland in the 2006 ALCS. The A's beat the
Tigers in five games of the 1972 ALCS which started a run of three consecutive
Game 3 of this series will take place on Tuesday at the Coliseum.
The Sports Network