Justin Verlander dominates as Tigers defeat Athletics to advance to ALCS

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The Tigers have advanced to the ALCS for the third straight season.

Justin Verlander threw eight scoreless innings in a dominant outing while Miguel Cabrera provided some thump as the Tigers defeated the Athletics 3-0 in Game 5 of the ALDS on Thursday at O.co Coliseum in Oakland.

While the Tigers were held scoreless by rookie right-hander Sonny Gray for eight innings back in Game 2, they got to him for three runs this time around. Miguel Cabrera had the big blow with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, his first extra-base hit of the series and his first home run since way back on September 17. The Tigers later added an insurance run in the sixth inning.

That was more than enough offense for Verlander, who struck out 10 batters and held the Athletics to just two hits and one walk. He was perfect until a one-out walk by Josh Reddick in the sixth inning and didn’t allow his first hit until a two-out single by Yoenis Cespedes in the seventh. Joaquin Benoit danced around some trouble in the ninth inning to keep the A’s off the board and lock down the series victory.

Verlander has been Oakland’s worst nightmare over the past two postseasons, going 3-0 with a 0.29 ERA and 43 strikeouts over 31 innings. That includes two Game 5 victories. Now that’s called ownership.

After battling back from a 2-1 deficit in the ALDS, the Tigers will now play the Red Sox in the ALCS. That series will begin Saturday night at Fenway Park in Boston.

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.

Video: Daniel Descalso hits D-Backs’ third inside-the-park homer of the season

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Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.

It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.