MLB Postseason Wrap: Tigers advance to ALCS

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MLB Postseason Wrap: Tigers advance to ALCS

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 AL 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, however.

On a night he allowed only three baserunners, 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.

Aching slugger Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the fourth off with a drive into the left-field seats for his first homer since Sept. 17 and just his third extra-base hit in 99 at-bats. That ended a 20-inning scoreless streak by the Tigers at the Coliseum.

Gray danced with danger from the start with stuff not nearly as crisp as just five nights before when he matched zeros with the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner.

This time, Verlander didn't allow a baserunner until Josh Reddick drew a one-out walk in the sixth -- but the no-hit bid remained until Cespedes' single the next inning. The hardest hit ball was a fly to the center-field warning track by Stephen Vogt in the sixth.

Verlander struck out 10 in eight innings, giving him 21 Ks in these two starts. He has 43 strikeouts in his four playoff outings against Oakland the past two years.

The A's saw their season end at the hands of Detroit for the third time in as many postseasons, including in a four-game sweep in the 2006 ALCS.

Oakland has lost its last six winner-take-all Game 5s and fell to 1-12 in potential clinchers since 2000. The A's struck out 57 times for the most in a best-of-five playoff series.

Verlander earned the nod for the decider after Game 1 winner Max Scherzer pitched in relief of an 8-6, season-saving win Game 4 in Detroit. Manager Jim Leyland had no qualms turning again to Verlander, who went 13-12 this season.

When asked before the game about his bullpen availability, Leyland nodded his head and quipped, "Verlander, he's available."

Gray, meanwhile, looked overmatched this time. He wiped his brow and never looked comfortable.

A's manager Bob Melvin went with Gray over 18-game winner and 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, who yielded three first-inning runs to lose Game 1.

These Game 5s becoming awfully familiar for both sides in their recent October rivalry.

Detroit held another clinching party in the visiting clubhouse of the Oakland Coliseum, where a raucous crowd of 46,959 swirled yellow towels until Benoit threw his hands in the air at the final out.

Catcher Alex Avila met Benoit in front of the mound for a long embrace as their teammates quickly joined them -- with cheers of "Let's go Oakland!" still ringing out.

The Tigers came together near the mound for a unique chant in which they squatted in unison and raised their hands in the air.

The 93-win Tigers are determined to take the next step and win a championship after being swept in four games of the 2012 World Series by the San Francisco Giants.

The 23-year-old Gray, pitching to chants of "Sonny! Sonny!" in his 12th career start, returned for the sixth inning at 92 pitches but was done once he allowed consecutive singles to Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta. Omar Infante then drove in the third run with a fielder's choice grounder off Dan Otero.

Along the 880 freeway just outside the Coliseum, a billboard blared: "IT'S ALWAYS SONNY IN THE TOWN." The only thing sunny was the outfield for the early evening start, which had players shielding their eyes to deal with tricky shadows and sun angles. Center field and right field initially played in bright sun.

Rookie starters have lost their last six winner-take-all postseason games since Daisuke Matsuzaka beat Cleveland in the 2007 ALCS for Boston.

Gray's curveball had less break and he never found the same groove that carried him in his playoff debut. It was a breezy Bay Area night and 19 degrees cooler at first pitch than the 82 degrees in a game starting an hour later Saturday night.

This marks another disappointing exit for the low-budget A's, who have baseball's 27th smallest payroll at $71.1 million after having the lowest at $59.5 million last year.

Both managers tweaked their lineups, most notably in the middle infield with Peralta back at shortstop for Detroit and the A's Alberto Callaspo playing second base in his first career postseason start.

Peralta, who served a 50-game suspension until late September for his ties to the Biogenesis clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs, hit a three-run homer in Game 4 to help extend Detroit's season.

Notes
Verlander tried for just the third no-hitter in postseason history and first since Philadelphia's Roy Halladay no-hit Cincinnati on Oct. 6, 2010. Don Larsen pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees against Brooklyn in the World Series on Oct. 8, 1956. ... Brandon Moss struck out 13 times in 18 at-bats. Detroit's Austin Jackson fanned 13 times in 20 at-bats.

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Is Phil Klein ready to stop 5-game skid?

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Is Phil Klein ready to stop 5-game skid?

Phillies (70-90) vs. Mets (86-74)
1:05 p.m. on FOX

The Phillies continue to stumble towards the finish line with their fifth straight loss and seventh in eight games. Phil Klein makes a spot start out of the bullpen for the Phils while the Mets turn to Bartolo Colon in a nationally televised game.

Here are five things to watch on Saturday afternoon.

1. Mets playoff update
With Friday's win, the Mets cannot be eliminated this weekend. Their magic number for a playoff spot is just one.

That means that if they win one more game or the St. Louis Cardinals lose a game to the Pirates in the next two days, the Mets clinch a spot in the NL wild card game. If the Phillies are able to beat the Mets back-to-back, the Cardinals win both games and the San Fransico Giants win at least one game, the Mets will be forced to play in a tiebreaker on Monday.

Got all that?

Because the Mets won four of seven against the Giants this year, they only need one more win to clinch homefield advantage in the NL wild card game. That means that if they win on Saturday, they'll have the ability to skip Noah Syndergaard, the scheduled starter for Sunday, and have him pitch in the wild card game. 

Therefore, a win by the Phillies on Saturday that isn't accompanied by both a Cardinals and Giants loss would likely force the Mets to pitch Syndergaard before 
the wild card game.

2. Life after Howard
Ryan Howard's option for 2017 will undoubtably be declined by the Phillies after the season, meaning of course that Howard is in his final two games in a Phillies uniform.

But what exactly comes next?

It's easy enough to say Tommy Joseph. Joseph has been extremely impressive in his first season in the majors. The now-25 year old broke into the majors in a big way and carries a .257/.308/.505 line into Saturday over his first 347 big league plate appearances. He has 21 home runs and 47 RBI. 

But there are reasons to be concerned. The big one is his injury history. Joseph dealt with concussion issues that moved him to first from behind the plate. While it seems to be behind him, it does raise a question with his durability. He also struck out in over 20 percent of his plate appearances this year and will need to be better in that regard.

Furthermore, it will be interesting to see how he handles making the team out of spring training next year and manning first base every day. The term 'sophomore slump' exists for a reason because plenty of players take a step back in Year 2.

It doesn't mean Joseph can't be relied on as the future at first base. Far from it. But how the Phillies provide support for him during the inevitable peaks and valleys will be key to his long-term takeover of the first base job.

3. Klein makes spot start 
The Phillies chose not to give Jake Thompson one more start and instead will hand Klein the penultimate start of the season. 

Klein made a spot start for the Phils on Aug. 3 vs. the Giants after Aaron Nola was shut down for the season. The 27-year-old righty held his own for five innings, allowing four runs in a 5-4 Phillies win, although he didn't factor in the decision.

Things haven't gone so well for Klein since he was recalled earlier in September. Klein dominated Triple A with a 1.51 ERA in 14 appearances (10 starts), but he's appeared out of the bullpen twice for the Phils in the last week. He gave up three runs and five baserunners while getting one out in the 17-0 loss on Sunday.

He followed that up with a four-out, two-run outing. He's thrown just 52 pitches and 24 strikes in those games, meaning he's lacking control and isn't fully stretched out. It's hard to blame Klein for his rust: He hadn't pitched in 16 days before Sunday.

Expect Klein's outing to be somewhat shortlived and this game to be a bullpen affair.

4. Big Bart in a big game
Believe it or not, but the oldest member of the Mets' rotation this year has been the healthiest.

Colon, who turned 43 in May, has made 32 starts, his most in a season since he won the American League Cy Young in 2005. He has started every fifth day for the Mets this year and even made one start on short rest. Meanwhile, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, all under 30, were lost to arm injuries for the season.

The righty known as Big Bart had a streak of five straight quality starts until his last start on Sept. 26. It was the Marlins' first game after Jose Fernandez's tragic death and the Fish knocked Colon around for seven runs while he recorded just seven outs.

Colon only threw 47 pitches in that game, so he should be completely fresh today. The big man carries an impressive 3.42 ERA and 14-8 record into Saturday, made even more remarkable considering he began in baseball in 1997.

5. This and that
• Howard has just six hits off Colon in 35 plate appearances, but he has made them count. He has three home runs and eight RBI. One of the home runs came earlier this season while the other two came in 2008.

• The Mets have turned up their offense in September, averaging 5.22 runs per game and going 17-10. The Phillies have been just about the opposite, going 10-17 and scored just 4.07 runs per game. 

• The Phillies are in the midst of their fourth losing streak of at least five games this year. They won't have a chance to eclipse their nine-game losing streak from Jun. 14-22.

• At 70-90, the Phillies are 20 games under .500 for the first time all season. They currently have the eighth worst record in baseball. The worst draft pick they can finish with is No. 9 overall. 

Best of MLB: Darvish stars as Rangers beat Rays 3-1 and clinch home field

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Best of MLB: Darvish stars as Rangers beat Rays 3-1 and clinch home field

ARLINGLTON, Texas -- Yu Darvish looked playoff-ready with a season-high 12 strikeouts in six innings as the Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 on Friday night and clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

The Rangers can be tied by only the Cleveland Indians and they own the tie-breaker by winning the teams' season series. The AL owns home-field advantage in the World Series thanks to its win in the All-Star Game.

Darvish (7-5) allowed one run, three hits and one walk. His 28th career game of double-digit strikeouts is the second-most in a pitcher's first 100 major league starts, topped only by Dwight Gooden (31). Darvish will likely start Game 2 of the Division Series following Cole Hamels.

Shin-Soo Choo returned to Texas' lineup after missing 39 games with a fractured left forearm. Choo pulled a single to right in his first plate appearance since Aug. 15 and went 1 for 4.

Matt Andriese (8-8) gave up three runs and seven hits, including solo home runs to Carlos Beltran and Rougned Odor (see full story). 

Cabrera hits 2 HRs, Tigers move up in playoff race, beat Braves
ATLANTA -- Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs, Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton also connected and the Detroit Tigers moved up in the playoff race, beating the Atlanta Braves 6-2 Friday night.

The Tigers won their third straight and pulled within a half-game of Toronto for the second AL wild-card spot. The Blue Jays lost at Boston 5-3.

The regular season is scheduled to end Sunday, but the Tigers might need to play beyond that. They were rained out against Cleveland this week and would have to make up that game if it impacts their playoff chances.

Daniel Norris (4-2) gave up one run, five hits, two walks and struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings.

The Braves, playing their final series at Turner Field before moving north to the suburbs next year, had won 10 of 11. Matt Wisler (7-13) was chased in the fifth when James McCann's RBI single made it 5-0 (see full story).

Trumbo hits 47th, Schoop 5 RBIs as Orioles top Yankees 8-1
NEW YORK -- Mark Trumbo hit his major league-leading 47th home run, Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones also went deep in a six-run fifth inning and the Baltimore Orioles beat the New York Yankees 8-1 in steady rain Friday night to maintain their AL wild-card lead.

Baltimore began the night tied with Toronto for the AL's two wild cards at 87-72, with Detroit 1 1/2 games back and Seattle trailing the Tigers by a half-game.

Trumbo and Jones homered off Michael Pineda (6-12), who started with 3 2/3 hitless innings and suddenly became ineffective.

Schoop tied his career high with five RBIs, hitting a go-ahead, two-run double in the fourth and adding a three-run homer in the fifth against James Pazos -- Baltimore's big league-high 250th home run this season.

Yovani Gallardo (6-8) won for just the second time in nine starts since Aug. 5, allowing two hits, three walks and Mark Teixeira's sacrifice fly in six innings (see full story). 

Ortiz delivers another HR, Red Sox beat Blue Jays 5-3
BOSTON -- Opening his final weekend with yet another game-winning homer, David Ortiz lined a two-run shot into the right-field stands to break a seventh-inning tie and help the Boston Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 on Friday night.

The AL East champion Red Sox snapped a three-game losing streak and stayed one game ahead of Cleveland in the race for home-field advantage for the playoffs.

The Blue Jays fell one game behind Baltimore in the wild-card race and are now within range of Detroit and Seattle in the fight for the AL's final postseason berth (see full story).