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Verlander: A's made Cubs deal with Tigers in mind

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Verlander: A's made Cubs deal with Tigers in mind play video for Verlander: A's made Cubs deal with Tigers in mind

DETROIT -- The Oakland Athletics left town on Wednesday having been swept out of Comerica Park. The Tigers were busy with the Rays when the A's made their move for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, acquiring the pitchers in a deal with the Cubs.

When Justin Verlander heard about the trade later Friday night, he felt the target on their backs. It wasn't so much about this week, but the last two Octobers.

"I found it very interesting," Verlander said Saturday. "Really, when I saw that trade, I thought that they made that trade for us. No doubt about it in my mind. If they want to win a World Series, they're envisioning that they have to go through us, and even though it's been two fantastic series, it's been heartbreaking for them the last two years."

The Tigers and A's have met in the American League Division Series the last two years, with both series going to a winner-take-all Game 5. Both times, Verlander broke Bay Area hearts with dominant performances -- a complete-game four-hitter with 11 strikeouts in 2012, then eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts last year. Neither A's counterpart -- Jarrod Parker two years ago, then rookie Sonny Gray last year -- delivered a quality start in return.

Oakland has scored one run on Verlander in 31 postseason innings the last two years. With Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, Verlander said, they have others capable of doing the same.

Regardless of the matchups, Verlander said, it's the concept.

"When you have a team like ours, somebody's going to go out there and dominate," Verlander said. "And it just happens the last couple years [against Oakland in Game 5], it's been me. And I think they felt like they needed that person. Star power in the playoffs goes a long way. Power pitching in the playoffs goes a long way."

If the regular season ended today, the Tigers and A's would have to advance to the AL Championship Series to meet again. Oakland owns baseball's best record, and would meet the Wild Card winner in a Division Series, while the Tigers would match up with the winner of the AL East, a race the Orioles now lead after the A's beat the Blue Jays on Friday night.

While the A's have won the AL West the last two years despite roster turnover, and reached the postseason seven times since 2000, their lone playoff series win came in '06. They swept the Twins in the Division Series that year, only to lose to the Tigers in the ALCS.

"I think a lot of factors had to do with why they did it," Verlander said later. "Obviously October's the main one, not necessarily us but October in general."

That said, the Tigers have won the AL Central each of the last three seasons, and have reached the postseason four times since 2006. Each time, they've won at least one series, reaching the World Series twice. Each year, their strength has been dominant starting pitching, the kind the A's just added.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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