OAKLAND, Calif. -- Almost a year to the day after Justin Verlander brought the Athletics' 2012 season to an end, he did repeat business at the Coliseum on Thursday night.
It was worse for Oakland the second time through. Verlander retired the first 16 men he faced and pitched eight powerfully constructed shutout innings in carrying the Tigers to a 3-0 win over Oakland, ending the A's season, once again, in the American League Division Series.
Verlander was perfect before he walked Josh Reddick with one out in the sixth. He didn't allow a hit until Yoenis Cespedes' two-out single in the seventh. The end result, once Joaquin Benoit closed it out, was a 3-0 Detroit victory that was as lopsided as a 3-0 game can ever get.
It was all Verlander, too, although he did need Miguel Cabrera's two-run homer in the fourth to put him into the lead.
Verlander threw seven shutout innings in Game 2, and last year in Game 5 he threw a four-hit shutout to beat the A's 6-0. The last time they scored off him in the postseason was in Game 1 of last year's ALDS when Crisp homered to start the game. They haven't scored since.
"Last year we expected to go further," Crisp said. "This year we expected to go all the way. It's disappointing when you feel that you have all the parts and you don't go where you expect to go."
The 1927 Yankees would have had a tough time against Verlander on this night. He crossed up the A's by throwing a maybe three times as many off-speed pitches early in the game when Oakland was sitting on his 96-mph fastball, then later he was able to throw anything he wanted in any count.
"When I woke up this morning, you know, it's just you know a big game is coming," Verlander said. "I wake up and the only thing I'm thinking about is my game plan and visualizing and executing."
He was the executioner, to be sure. The A's beat him up in August in Detroit with five runs (three earned) in five innings, but this was different in a Jekyll and Hyde way.
The Detroit right-hander, who would be the Cy Young winner every year if only his games in the postseason against the A's counted, threw brilliant shutout baseball throughout, sending the A's limping out of the ALDS. Oakland owned a 2-1 lead in games and had a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning and a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning of Game 4 before their postseason unraveled.
They loaded the bases with none out in the eighth while down a run and didn't score. The bullpen gave away three unnecessary runs after there were two out and none on. And that meant the two runs Oakland scored in the ninth inning of Game 4 were not game changers in an 8-6 loss.
It's not a new story. The A's have not won the fifth game of a best-of-five series since 1973, a 40-year span that comes close to covering the entire time the A's have been in residence in the Coliseum. Oakland has lost 12 times in its last 13 chances to close out a postseason series, twice in the last three days.
"You can't look just at that. There were so many scenarios in that game," Reddick said. The right fielder was the first A's base runner Thursday when he walked with two out in the sixth, and he singled with two out in the eighth. In between Yoenis Cespedes got the A's first hit with a two-out single in the seventh.
Shortstop Jed Lowrie, who tried to get a game-tying rally going Thursday with a two-out double in the ninth, said, "It's not like we gave that one away.
"They fought to win that game," Lowrie said. "And tonight Verlander was outstanding. We needed to find a way to break through, and we never did."
A's starter Sonny Gray, who broke his left thumb on the final out of the fifth inning, took the loss when Miguel Cabrera, who had 44 homers in the regular season but just one since the calendar turned to September, homered with a man on in the fourth.
"I wanted to get the ball inside, and that pitch was a little out over the plate," Gray said. "It's unfortunate."
Those are two good words to sum up the end of the A's season. A team that expected great things from itself did the hardest thing there is to do in baseball -- win a division title over the course of 162 games.
Now they must learn how to play and win a five-game series.
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