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Verlander Pitches Tigers To Victory In Game One Of the ALDS

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: October 07, 2012
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Oct. 7, 2012

DETROIT -- ODU pitching great Justin Verlander ('04) scattered three hits and struck out 11 to lead the Detroit Tigers to a 3-1 American League Divisional Series win Saturday night.

For the first few innings, Verlander labored, his pitch count rising while his control deserted him. But the Athletics could manage only that one run, missing their best chance of the night to break through against Detroit's hard-throwing ace.

Verlander held Oakland scoreless after his early slip, and Alex Avila homered in the fifth inning to lift the Tigers over the Athletics 3-1 on Saturday night in the opener of their best-of-five AL Division Series. Verlander allowed three hits in seven innings and matched his postseason high with 11 strikeouts.

"Early on was kind of a bit of a battle for me," Verlander said. "Just kind of found my rhythm a little bit and was able to hit my spots better, and I started throwing my breaking ball for strikes a little bit better, too."

As usual, he seemed stronger in the later innings, striking out the side in the sixth and the first two hitters of the seventh.

"Early on, didn't have great control of any of my pitches," Verlander said. "But I was able to get myself out of jams that I created."

Joaquin Benoit pitched the eighth, and Jose Valverde struck out two in a perfect ninth for the save.

Game 2 is Sunday, with Doug Fister taking the mound for Detroit and left-hander Tommy Milone for Oakland. Then the series shifts to the West Coast.

After winning their final six games to take the AL West in shocking fashion, the A's made their presence felt right away in Detroit. The home crowd at Comerica Park greeted Verlander with a roar and a sea of twirling white towels when he popped out of the dugout and headed to the mound to start the game, but Crisp was unfazed. He pulled Verlander's two-strike pitch just inside the pole in right field to put Oakland on top.

"He made a mistake to the first batter of the game, and then he didn't make another one all night," A's first baseman Brandon Moss said, exaggerating only slightly.

Verlander had two starts cut short early by bad weather in last year's postseason. It was 49 degrees -- but dry -- at game time Saturday.

Verlander led the majors in strikeouts for the second straight year, and Oakland was baseball's most strikeout-prone team. It showed toward the end of Verlander's outing.

After taking a called third strike for the third out of the sixth -- Verlander's fourth strikeout in a five-hitter span -- Donaldson chirped a bit at plate umpire Jim Reynolds. Verlander was done after one more inning, finishing with 121 pitches and his fourth career postseason win. He walked four.

The 6-5 Verlander pitched for ODU from 2002-2004 where the All-CAA pitcher is the all-time strikeout king in ODU, CAA and Virginia Division I history with 427 strikeouts in just 335.2 innings of work.

Verlander will be inducted into the ODU Sports Hall of Fame next Saturday.

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