Justin Verlander pitches Tigers past A’s and into ALCS

20 Comments

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.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.