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.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.