Justin Verlander pitches Tigers past A’s and into ALCS

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Way too much Justin Verlander.

Detroit’s ace held down the A’s for the second time in five games Thursday, pitching a complete-game shutout and striking out 11 as the Tigers won 6-0 to move on to the ALCS.

Verlander fanned 22 in his two starts, setting a new record for strikeouts in a Divisional Series. The previous record of 21 was shared by Kevin Brown and Cliff Lee.

It was the first complete-game win for a Tigers starter in the postseason since Jack Morris completed Game 4 of the 1984 World Series.

The A’s were able to keep it close for six innings tonight, with the Tigers getting their lone two runs in the third after Austin Jackson doubled in Omar Infante and came around to score on a wild pitch.

The Tigers’ four-run seventh that settled the matter. A’s starter Jarrod Parker exited with runners on the corners and one out. Ryan Cook came in and failed to retire any of the three batters he faced, making it a 4-0 game. The Tigers got two more runs after Cook left, the first on an RBI single and the second on a Stephen Drew error.

While they were far more concerned about their own fate, the Tigers got good news from the other ALDS in the form of the Orioles’ win over the Yankees tonight. It means they still could have home-field advantage in the ALCS of Baltimore can prevail again in Game 5. And if the Yankees win instead, at least CC Sabathia will be burnt instead of getting the Game 1 start. The Tigers figure to use Doug Fister in Game 1, Max Scherzer in Game 2, Verlander in Game 3 and Anibal Sanchez in Game 4 of the ALCS.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.