MLB.com Columnist

Roger Schlueter

MLB Notebook: Verlander is a peerless ace

MLB Notebook: Verlander is a peerless ace

Over the past two regular seasons combined, Justin Verlander has thrown 489 1/3 innings, picked up the win in 75.9 percent of his decisions, posted a 2.52 ERA and a 165 ERA+, fanned 489 batters and allowed a .205 batting average against. With the exception of the raw ERA (where he ranks second), each of those numbers leads the Majors.

Thus, it was pretty easy -- even before his performance in Oakland on Thursday night -- to assemble a case for the Detroit right-hander as the best pitcher on the planet. And now, with a start that may be the most dominating in history for a postseason winner-take-all contest, Verlander's curriculum vitae could use a revision.

American League Division Series: Tigers vs. Athletics
Verlander threw a four-hit shutout and struck out 11, leading the Tigers to a series-clinching 6-0 win over the Athletics. Verlander's line produced a game score (an equation used to measure a pitcher's dominance) of 89.

For winner-take all contests:

• Verlander was the 17th pitcher to throw a shutout. Of those 17, Verlander was one of five to hold the opposition to four hits or fewer.

• Verlander was the second pitcher to strike out as many as 11 batters. In Game 5 of the 2010 ALDS, the Rangers' Cliff Lee fanned 11 Rays batters.

Dominance in the clutch
Eleven pitchers have tossed shutouts on four hits or fewer in decisive postseason games.
Pitcher Team Game Hits
Bill Dinneen Boston 1903 WS, G8 4
Orval Overall* Cubs 1908 WS, G5 3
Art Nehf Giants 1921 WS, G8 4
Johnny Kucks Yankees 1956 WS, G7 3
Ralph Terry Yankees 1962 WS, G7 4
Sandy Koufax* Dodgers 1965 WS, G7 3
Dave McNally Orioles 1966 WS, G4 4
Bobby Jones Mets 2000 NLDS, G4 1
Mike Hampton Mets 2000 NLCS, G5 3
Chris Carpenter Cardinals 2011 NLDS, G5 3
Justin Verlander Tigers 2012 ALDS, G5 4
* 10 strikeouts
• Verlander's game score of 89 was the highest. The previous best was Sandy Koufax's 88 in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series.

For series-clinching games:

• Verlander was the 31st pitcher to throw a shutout. Of those 31, he was one of 11 to hold the opposition to four hits or fewer.

• Verlander was the ninth pitcher to strike out as many as 11 batters.

• Verlander's game score of 89 was the highest. The previous best was 88, by Koufax (1965 World Series, Game 7), Mike Mussina ('97 American League Championship Series, Game 6), Bobby Jones (2000 National League Division Series, Game 4) and Mike Hampton ('00 National League Championship Series, Game 5).

• Verlander also struck out 11 A's in Game 1 of this year's ALDS. He was the first pitcher in postseason history to have two games with at least 11 K's in the same series. Before Verlander, only four pitchers had produced multiple 11-strikeout games in the same postseason.

National League Division Series: Reds vs. Giants
The Giants defeated the Reds, 6-4, in Game 5 to advance to the NLDS. In winning their third straight game, the Giants became the sixth team to win a Division Series after losing the first two contests. Of the six, the Giants are the only club to win all three as the road team.

Giants catcher Buster Posey went 1-for-4 with a fifth-inning grand slam.

• Posey's slam was the first for a Giants player in the postseason since Will Clark's fourth-inning blast against Greg Maddux in Game 1 of the 1989 NLCS.

• The grand slam was the fourth to come in a winner-take-all contest. The other three were hit by the Yankees' Moose Skowron (Game 7, 1956 World Series), Boston's Troy O'Leary (Game 5, '99 ALDS) and Boston's Johnny Damon (Game 7, 2004 ALCS).

• Posey's slam was the third by a catcher in postseason history. The Yankees' Yogi Berra hit one in Game 2 of the 1956 World Series, and the Braves' Eddie Perez hit one in Game 3 of the '98 NLDS.

San Francisco starter Matt Cain picked up the win with 5 2/3 innings of six-hit, three-run ball. The other Giants pitchers to get the start in a winner-take-all contest in the postseason: Christy Mathewson (1912 World Series), Virgil Barnes ('24 World Series), Jack Sanford ('62 World Series), Atlee Hammaker ('87 NLCS), Russ Ortiz (2002 NLDS) and Livan Hernandez ('02 World Series).

National League Division Series: Cardinals vs. Nationals
The Nationals forced a deciding Game 5, defeating the Cardinals, 2-1, on Jayson Werth's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Werth's game-ending home run was the third walk-off hit of this year's Division Series, following a game-ending homer by the Yankees' Raul Ibanez and the walk-off single by Oakland's Coco Crisp. The three are tied for the most in any year's worth of Division Series games, with 1981, '95, '97 and 2003 also having three apiece.

Werth's game-ending home run was also the seventh to force a deciding Game 5 or deciding Game 7.

The Nationals and Cardinals each compiled just three hits in the game. There were five other postseason contests in which both teams collected no more than three hits:

• Game 2 of the 1921 World Series (Giants/Yankees)

• Game 3 of the 1984 ALCS (Tigers/Royals)

• Game 1 of the 1995 World Series (Braves/Indians)

• Game 1 of the 2003 NLDS (Giants/Marlins)

• Game 5 of the 2004 NLCS (Astros/Cardinals)

American League Division Series: Orioles vs. Yankees
The Orioles produced their accustomed outcome in one-run and extra-inning games, defeating the Yankees, 2-1, in 13 innings. With the victory, the O's evened the series at two games apiece.

During the regular season, Baltimore set a new Major League record by compiling a .763 winning percentage (29-9) in one-run games, and became the first team since the 1949 Indians to win 16 consecutive extra-inning contests. In this year's postseason, the Orioles are 2-1 in one-run games and 1-1 in extra-inning games.

Thursday's game was the 11th in postseason history to go at least 13 innings. Of those 11, it was only the second with no more than three combined runs. In Game 2 of the 1916 World Series, Boston (behind a complete-game effort by Babe Ruth) defeated Brooklyn, 2-1, in 14 innings.

Derek Jeter went 2-for-6 on Thursday and has collected two hits in all four Yankees games this postseason. He is the first Yanks player to open a postseason with four straight multihit games since Skowron in 1960.

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.