Justin Verlander posted his first career playoff shutout as the Detroit Tigers advanced to the second round of the Major League Baseball playoffs with a 6-0 win over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.
Reigning American League Cy Young winner Verlander struck out 11 batters and scattered four hits and walked one for Detroit, who will appear in their franchise’s sixth AL Championship Series and third in the last seven years.
“We had our backs against the wall all year and now we are playing our best baseball when it matters,” Verlander said.
In the other AL playoff game Thursday, J.J. Hardy’s RBI double in the 13th inning kept the Orioles’ season alive as Baltimore took a 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees in game four of their best-of-five series.
Joe Coleman was the last Detroit pitcher to record a shutout in the playoffs. He did it in game three of the 1972 ALCS against the Athletics.
The 29-year-old Verlander came into this postseason with 3-3 mark and a 5.57 ERA over eight starts, but won both of his starts in this series.
“Once he gets on his game it is like a locomotive going at top speed,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “He was on his game tonight.”
The ace pitcher surrendered just one run over 16 innings and finished with a total of 22 strikeouts for the Tigers who won the series three games to two.
Including the playoffs, he has won his last six starts and has posted a superb 0.64 ERA during the span.
A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker gave up four runs on seven hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings in the loss.
Orioles pitcher Pedro Strop was credited with the win. He allowed one hit and struck out two over two innings of scoreless relief at Yankee Stadium.
“All game I had been telling myself not to do too much but that wasn’t working,” Hardy said. “So I told myself during that (13th inning) bat to do a little more. Fortunately I got one I could elevate.
“It was intense. We understood every play matters and our bullpen did a great job tonight.”
The series is now tied at 2-2 with the decisive game five set for Friday at 3 p.m.
Nate McLouth hit a home run in the victory, while Jim Johnson pitched a perfect 13th inning to post his second save of the series.
Yankees pitcher David Phelps surrendered the deciding run and was given the loss.
Robinson Cano knocked in the lone run for New York, which hit zero-for-nine with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.
It was the second extra inning game between the two teams in as many days.
On Wednesday, Yankees Raul Ibanez tied the game with a solo homer in the ninth and three innings later, he blasted another home run into the second deck in right field to give New York a thrilling 3-2 win.
The teams now head to a deciding game after splitting the first two games in Baltimore.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been managing with a heavy heart in the series following the death of his father on Saturday.
New York pitcher Joba Chamberlain was forced to leave the game in the 12th inning after getting hit in the elbow with the barrel of a broken bat. He will be evaluated by the team doctor on Friday.
The Orioles and Yankees are no strangers to one another and in addition to splitting 18 regular season games this season, they also met in the 1996 ALCS series won by New York.
Buster Posey smashed a grand slam in a six-run fifth inning as San Francisco advanced to the second round of the Major League Baseball playoffs with a 6-4 win over Cincinnati on Thursday.
The Giants became just the second National League team to win a first-round best-of-five series after dropping the first two games.
Brandon Crawford collected two hits, an RBI and scored a run for the Giants, who won the World Series championship two years ago.
“It was huge, coming back from 0-2,” Giants pitcher Matt Cain said. “Winning three games in this ballpark is not something that’s easy to do, especially in this situation.”
The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers also rallied from 0-2 to win their NL series against Houston.
The NL West champions advance to face the winner of the Washington and St. Louis series, who play a Game 5 on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. That second round series will be a best-of-seven.
In the other NL playoff game Thursday, slugger Jayson Werth hammered a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth to lift Washington to a 2-1 victory over the Cardinals in game four of their series at Nationals Park.
In Cincinnati, Pablo Sandoval finished with two hits and scored a run for the Giants, while Angel Pagan also drove in a run for San Francisco.
Starting pitcher Cain lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and three runs, while walking two and striking out five. Sergio Romo posted his first career playoff save by recording the last four outs of the contest.
Ryan Ludwick homered and drove in two runs and Brandon Phillips added two hits and two RBI for the Reds, who have not won a playoff series since they beat the Dodgers 17 years ago.
“Everyone in this clubhouse did a tremendous job this year,” Ludwick said. “It’s sad to see it end, but it is and we’re all going to move on.”
Reds pitcher Mat Latos worked 4 1/3 innings and was rocked for seven hits and six runs. He finished with four strikeouts and one walk.
Cincinnati captured the NL Central division after winning 97 games in the regular season. It was the most wins for them in a season since they went 102-60 in 1976.
San Francisco broke the game open in the fifth inning. Gregor Blanco led off with a single and scored when Crawford hit a ball into the right-field corner for a triple.
Two batters later, Reds shortstop Zack Cozart mis-handled a Pagan grounder and Crawford scored to make it 2-0.
Marco Scutaro walked and Sandoval’s line single to left field loaded the bases for San Francisco. Then Posey’s blast landed in the left-field seats.
Sam LeCure struck out the next two batters to keep it 6-0 for the Giants.
In Washington, Werth’s blast set up a deciding game five which will take place Friday in the US capital, where fans are enjoying the city’s first playoff series since 1933.
Werth came out on top in a thrilling 13-pitch duel with St. Louis pitcher Lance Lynn, smashing a fastball into the visiting bullpen.
“I felt good going into that at bat,” Werth said. “We won this game and all bets are off for tomorrow.”
Adam LaRoche also homered for the Nationals, who managed just three hits in the game.
Ross Detwiler held the Cardinals to one unearned run on three hits over the first six innings. Washington’s Drew Storen earned the victory with a scoreless top of the ninth in which he struck out two St. Louis batters.