While shaking off his prior postseason woes, Justin Verlander is peaking just in time for the Detroit Tigers.
The reigning American League Cy Young and MVP winner fired his first postseason shutout and the Tigers are headed back to the ALCS following a 6-0 triumph over the Oakland Athletics in Game 5 of their ALDS.
Verlander, the American League strikeout leader, established a new LDS record with 22 punchouts in the series.
Joe Coleman was the last Tiger to record a shutout in postseason play. He did so in Game 3 of the 1972 ALCS against the Athletics.
After blowing a pair of opportunities to clinch the series, which included squandering a two-run, ninth-inning margin in Game 4, Verlander became Detroit's closer on Thursday.
Verlander (2-0) fanned 11, scattered four hits and walked one for Detroit, which will appear in its franchise's sixth ALCS and third in the last seven years.
"I don't have anybody better than him," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "And if they get to him that much, we'll probably be in trouble. I'm not taking him out, I can assure you of that, because I don't have anybody better to bring in."
Game 1 of the ALCS is scheduled for Saturday. Detroit will play the winner of the Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankees ALDS, which is tied at 2-2 heading into Friday.
Verlander came into this postseason with 3-3 mark and a 5.57 ERA over eight starts, but won both of his starts in this series. The fireballer surrendered just one run over 16 frames.
Including the postseason, the 29-year-old has won his last six starts and has posted a minuscule 0.64 ERA during the span.
"We had our backs against the wall all year and we're playing our best baseball now when it matters," Verlander said.
Austin Jackson tallied two hits, two RBI and a pair of runs scored in the victory.
The Tigers won the series despite a .190 batting average (4-for-21) from Prince Fielder and just one RBI from Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
Jarrod Parker (0-2) was touched for four runs on seven hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings for Oakland, which stunned the two-time reigning Al champion Rangers on the regular season's final day to win the AL West.
"It was a heck of a story," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It was a heck of a run for us, but it doesn't feel any better at the end of the day when you end up going home. It's a pretty empty feeling, but, you know, hopefully we can go farther next year."
Already holding a 2-0 advantage, Detroit blew the game open with a four-run seventh.
Jhonny Peralta began the frame with an infield single, stole second and advanced to third two batters later when Omar Infante fisted a base hit to right field.
Ryan Cook took over on the mound for Parker and was greeted with Jackson's single to center field, which plated Peralta. Quintin Berry walked to load the bases and Cabrera was hit by a pitch to push across Infante.
Jerry Blevins came on for Cook and Fielder blooped a single off the end of his bat to center field, bringing home Jackson. Stephen Drew's fielding error then allowed Berry to score and make it 6-0.
Verlander gave up a pair of singles in the eighth, but Crisp grounded out to second to end the frame. He tossed a 1-2-3 ninth, with the last out coming via a Seth Smith groundout to second base.
Jackson ripped an RBI double and later scored on a wild pitch as part of a two-run third to start the scoring.
The A's were the 11th team to force a Game 5 after trailing 2-0 in the LDS ... Detroit was 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position, while Oakland finished 0-for-2 with RISP ... Verlander improved to 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA in three career postseason starts against Oakland.