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MLB Notebook: Verlander owns the ALDS

Right-hander is lights-out for the second straight year in decisive Game 5

In the 318-game history of the Division Series, only seven of the 636 starting pitchers have posted a line that featured at least 10 strikeouts and no runs allowed.

Three of those seven took place in the initial clash of the battle. There was Kevin Brown's extraordinary 16-strikeout performance in Game 1 in the 1998 National League Division Series, Bartolo Colon's exceptional effort in Game 1 of the 2001 American League Division Series and Tim Lincecum's otherworldly two-hit shutout with 14 K's in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS.

Beyond series openers, there have been two such performances in a Game 2 -- by Dave Righetti in 1981 and Justin Verlander on Saturday against Oakland -- but none in a Game 3 or Game 4. And without Verlander's brilliant efforts in clinchers vs. the A's in each of the past two seasons, there wouldn't be any in a Game 5 either.

So, to turn back to those earlier numbers, that's 636 starts in a Division Series game, with seven of the 636 featuring at least 10 strikeouts and no runs allowed by the starter, and three of the seven are owned by Verlander.

Verlander comes up huge ... again
In the 26th winner-take-all game in Division Series history (and the second in as many nights), the Tigers were led by another dominating performance by Verlander and blanked the Athletics, 3-0, on Thursday. Verlander picked up the win, throwing eight shutout innings and allowing two hits with 10 strikeouts and one walk.

With the victory, Detroit moves to the American League Championship Series, where it will take on Boston. The Red Sox and the Tigers have never before tussled in the postseason.

• Verlander improved to 2-0 in two winner-take-all starts. The right-hander -- who threw a four-hit shutout in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS against the Athletics -- is the fourth starter in postseason history to have a pair of winner-take-all victories. The others: Bob Gibson (Game 7 of the 1964 World Series and Game 7 of the '67 World Series), Chris Carpenter (Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS and Game 7 of the '11 World Series) and Matt Cain (Game 5 of the '12 NLDS and Game 7 of the '12 NL Championship Series).

Dominant and decisive
The all-time highest Game Scores in deciding postseason games.
Pitcher Game Score
Justin Verlander 2012 ALDS, G5 89
Sandy Koufax 1965 WS, G7 88
Mike Mussina 1997 ALCS, G6 88
Bobby Jones 2000 NLDS, G4 88
Mike Hampton 2000 NLCS, G5 88
Orval Overall 1908 WS, G5 87
John Smoltz 1997 NLDS, G3 87
Justin Verlander 2013 ALDS, G5 87

• Verlander's Game Score (an equation used to measure a pitcher's dominance) for Thursday's start was 87. Verlander (who had a Game Score of 89 in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS), Sandy Koufax (88 in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series) and Verlander (with this 87 on Thursday) own the three highest scores for any starter in a winner-take-all postseason contest.

• For deciding postseason games, there have been eight contests in which a starter posted a Game Score of at least 87, with Verlander the only two-time representative.

• Verlander is one of seven pitchers to have at least 10 strikeouts in a winner-take-all-contest, and he's the only one to accomplish the feat twice. The others: Cliff Lee (11 K's, Game 5 of the 2010 ALDS), Hal Newhouser (10K's, Game 7 of the 1945 World Series), Koufax (10K's, Game 7 of the '65 World Series), Gibson (10K's, Game 7 of the '67 World Series) and Roger Clemens (10K's, Game 7 of the 2001 World Series).

• Verlander, who had 11 K's in Game 2 of this 2013 ALDS, is one of only two pitcher to have two double-digit strikeout games in one Division Series. He also did it in '12, and Lee accomplished the feat in '10.

• Verlander's 21 strikeouts in the 2013 ALDS tie him with Brown (1998 NLDS) and Lee (2010 ALDS) for the second most in any single League Division Series. Verlander's 22 a year ago were the most.

• Verlander, who threw seven innings of four-hit, no-run ball in Game 2 vs. Oakland, is the fourth pitcher in Division Series history to have at least 10 total innings and emerge with an unblemished ERA. In 1981, Dodgers southpaw Jerry Reuss amassed 18 shutout innings in two starts; in '99, Pedro Martinez threw 10 innings of shutout ball over one start and one relief appearance; and in 2008, Jon Lester made a pair of seven-inning starts and allowed one unearned run.

• Verlander now has five double-digit strikeout games in his postseason career, tying Gibson, Randy Johnson and Lee for the most.

• Oddly enough, Verlander was the first pitcher to finish a winner-take-all start with exactly eight scoreless innings. There had been one 10-inning shutout (Jack Morris in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series) and 16 nine-inning shutouts (including Verlander's gem in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS).

Cabrera runs streak to 29
With Verlander dominating on the mound, Miguel Cabrera's fourth-inning, two-run home run was all the scoring the Tigers would need. Cabrera was the third Tigers player to homer in a winner-take-all contest, following Don Kelly and Delmon Young in Game 5 of the 2011 ALDS against the Yankees. 

Cabrera went 1-for-4 in each of the five ALDS games this year. With his homer and walk in this Game 5, he has now reached safely in a record 29 straight postseason contests. During this stretch, he has carried a .279/.400/.548 line with seven doubles, seven home runs and 21 RBIs.

Here and there
• With Verlander's 10 strikeouts and one by Joaquin Benoit in the ninth, Detroit finished with a Division Series record of 57 punchouts. The previous mark of 55 was set by the Rangers in 2010.

• The Athletics fell to 4-7 in winner-take-all games, and they have not emerged victorious in one since Game 7 of the 1973 World Series. Since that victory, the A's have dropped six straight, including a loss to the Tigers (at home) in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS.

• The Tigers improved to 5-4 in winner-take-all games, and they have won their past three. All three of those wins have come on the road in a Game 5 of the ALDS: in '11 at Yankee Stadium and '12 and '13 in Oakland.

• Since the introduction of the League Championship Series in 1969, there have been eight teams to reach an ALCS in three (or more) consecutive years: the 1971-75 Athletics, 1998-2001 Yankees, '69-72 Orioles, '76-78 Royals, '76-78 Yankees, '88-90 Athletics, '91-93 Blue Jays and 2011-13 Tigers.

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions.
Read More: Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera