Final
  for this game

Verlander, Tigers look to go up 2-0 on Athletics

Oct 11, 2006 - 10:09 AM Detroit at Oakland 8:19 pm EDT American League Championship Series Tigers lead, 1-0

OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- What a difference a week has made for the Detroit Tigers.

Rookie Justin Verlander gets the call Wednesday as the Tigers go for their fifth consecutive postseason victory against the Oakland Athletics in Game Two of the American League Championship Series.

One week ago, Detroit dropped the opening game of its AL Division Series with the New York Yankees for its sixth straight defeat dating back to the regular season.

Since then, the Tigers, who had to settle for the AL wild card on the final day of the regular season, have looked like a team of destiny. After taking three straight contests against the Yankees, they roughed around the Athletics' Barry Zito in Tuesday's 5-1 triumph.

Brandon Inge went 3-for-3 with a third-inning homer and two RBI. Ivan Rodriguez belted a solo shot and Nate Robertson pitched five scoreless innings.

Oakland managed eight hits but failed to take advantage of numerous scoring opportunities, including the fourth when Robertson worked out of a jam by striking out three straight batters.

"Well, we had 14 baserunners tonight," A's manager Ken Macha said. "Particularly the fourth inning. Second and third, nobody out and the pitcher reached back, got a little extra and struck out the side. That's pretty frustrating."

Detroit will attempt to overcome a streak that has seen the last four opening-game winners in the ALCS eventually lose the series.

The 23-year-old Verlander (0-0, 2.16 ERA) showed plenty of poise against the Yankees in Thursday's Game Two. His only mistake in 5 1/3 innings was yielding Johnny Damon's three-run homer, but he kept Detroit within striking distance.

"The atmosphere was definitely different," Verlander said. "It was totally unlike anything I had ever experienced before. As far as the way I felt, though, I actually felt pretty calm and collected going out there.

"I thought I'd be a little too pumped up, a little too excited and kind of have to idle myself down, but I felt all right. I was way more nervous after I was out of the game than when I was in the game."

In a 17-9 campaign, Verlander was 1-1 in three starts against Oakland. He was impressive in his last encounter against them, yielding a run and seven hits in six frames on July 21.

Oakland counters with Esteban Loaiza (0-0, 3.60 ERA), who was 11-9 with a 4.89 ERA in the regular season. He gave up two runs and eight hits in five innings of a Game Two victory over the Minnesota Twins where he did not figure in the decision.

"I think I've just got to go out there and throw strikes, get the ball low and keep it in play and try to get a lot of ground balls and keep the team in the dugout and score some runs," Loaiza said.

Loaiza was winless in two outings against the Tigers this season. He was tagged for eight runs and eight hits in just three innings of an 8-4 loss on July 23. However, he is 11-5 with a 2.98 lifetime ERA against Detroit.

"They like to hit. They like to get on. They like to swing early. They like to swing late," Loaiza said. "They like to move runners over and they like to squeeze play. You've got to be aware of that situation in games, because it's not the regular season anymore, it's the playoffs."

The series shifts to Detroit for Game Three on Friday.






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