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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.