Verlander Ends A's Run

Tigers, fans salute overachieving club

OAKLAND—There has never been a team quite like the young Athletics, who forced the Tigers into a fifth-game finale of the American League Division Series.

The fans knew it, and even the Tigers knew it. What occurred after Justin Verlander completed a masterful four-hit shutout to finish a 6-0 Detroit win over the A's finished the strange ride of the most rookie-laden team ever to enter a playoff.

Verlander had controlled the A's, finishing off one of the most unlikely seasons ever in the 11-plus decades of Major League Baseball. The Tigers rushed to the center of the field for a group celebration, and the sellout crowd of 36,393 began a wild cheer for the young A's. The players came back on the field to return the salute to the fans, then the strangest thing happened.

"We went out there, and we tipped our hats to the fans," said rookie starter Tommy Milone. "Then I looked over, and the Tigers were lifting their caps to us. It was really cool."

The gesture shocked the A's. "What Detroit did was one of the most professional things I've ever seen," Jonny Gomes said. "That's the first time I've ever seen anything like that."

The finish was unlike anything the players had ever seen, with the fans screaming madly for the young team of overachievers.

"In New York or Boston, they lose and they get booed. Here, we lose and we get a standing ovation," said rookie reliever Evan Scribner, who threw two scoreless innings. "It's really something."

Scribner's appearance made him the ninth rookie to play in the series, tying the record set by the 2007 Diamondbacks. The A's had a dozen rookies on the playoff roster, the most ever in a series. Chris Carter, Travis Blackley and Pedro Figueroa did not get in games. Tiger manager Jim Leyland said he avoided using lefty pitchers in certain situations to prevent slugging righty hitters Carter and Gomes from getting pinch-hit opportunities.

Rookie Jarrod Parker started the game and pitched effectively into the seventh, when the Tigers scored four times to take command, and Verlander would never allow the A's to come back.

Leyland was gracious in his assessment of the A's. "First of all, let me congratulate the Oakland organization on an unbelievable, magical year. A great team and a great manager (Bob Melvin). And, they were tough to beat," he said. "I tip my cap to them."

Leyland made a point of going over to Melvin moments after the game, "to congratulate him on a job well done," Leyland said.

The Tigers got the champagne, but the A's got the kudos. In all of baseball history, not even in the days of Cap Anson, Ty Cobb or Harry Hooper, no team has carried so many rookies into a postseason. Oakland seemed overmatched in the first game against Verlander, then dropped the second in Detroit. Returning to Oakland, the young A's won Game Three behind Brett Anderson, then rallied in the ninth inning of Game Four to score three runs off star closer Jose Valverde to win and force the finale.

"It was unbelievable," said Tiger center fielder Austin Jackson said of the series. "I don't know where people get this inexperienced team or they're just kind of coming out of nowhere. They're a good team. And they've got good pitching and they've got good hitters. It was tough on us. No game that we played this series was easy. And we didn't expect anything different from them. They're a good team."

Well, they are an inexperienced team coming out of nowhere. Such rookies as Scribner and Milone have outperformed expectations, and they credit an atmosphere that seems more collegiate than professional.

"It is, that's right," Scribner said. "I've heard it said before that it's like a little fraternity we've got going. There's no outcasts or anything. Everybody hangs out together and cheers for each other on the field. I love every guy on this team. Everybody does their part and knows their role and does their job."

With one remarkable season ended, the question will be whether this will carry over into the future: Will these rookie-resplendent A's grow better with experience? Or was this a season of career years and one-hit wonders?

Only time will tell, of course, but Melvin has his expectations: "I think this is the start of something big for this team and this organization."