Verlander has two career no-hitters in the regular season and numerous other brushes. Thursday night looked a lot like those other games: Verlander in control of his pitches, including a hard fastball and dipping curve. One of the curveballs was so enticing, Lowrie fouled it off with a check swing despite the ball bouncing well in front of the plate.
That was in the seventh, when Lowrie worked a seven-pitch at-bat, fouling off six straight before flying out. Two pitches later, Cespedes hit a 1-0 fastball up the middle to break up the no-hitter. Verlander responded by striking out Smith on four pitches.
He fanned Stephen Vogt after Reddick hit a two-out single in the eighth, then watched as Lowrie doubled off Benoit and Cespedes was hit in the abdomen by a pitch before the Detroit closer got Smith to fly out.
Verlander has put a down regular season (for him) behind him after going 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA for the AL Central champions.
"I'm pitching the way I'm supposed to," he said. "I worked my butt off all year to try to get consistent and get myself where I needed to be. I feel like it finally paid off at the end of the year. It wasn't easy. It was a battle for me all year long. But I felt like I was finally able to make a couple of adjustments that I was able to make and get myself to be more consistent."
He had five strikeouts in the first three innings. In the fifth, he ran a 3-2 count on Smith in an eight-pitch at-bat that ended in a grounder. If shortstop Jhonny Peralta hadn't been playing Smith up the middle, it might have been the closest thing the A's had to a hit up to that point.
Alberto Callaspo hit a sharp grounder down the first base line leading off the sixth, but Prince Fielder was right there. Verlander then walked Reddick, who tagged and went to second on Vogt's long fly ball to center. But Coco Crisp flied out to left to end the inning.
Torii Hunter's one-out single in the fourth inning was the first hit off Gray. Cabrera then lined a 94 mph fastball over the left field wall for his first home run since Sept. 17, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs, but Gray escaped the jam on an Omar Infante grounder. Gray put two runners on in the fifth but got out of the inning without allowing a run.
After giving up back-to-back singles to Victor Martinez and Peralta to start the sixth, Gray was pulled for Dan Otero. One of the runners scored after back-to-back force plays, making it 3-0 Detroit.