OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Justin Verlander did not allow a hit until the seventh inning Thursday while earning Detroit a berth in the AL Championship Series with a 3-0 win over Oakland.
Verlander, given the start in the deciding game of the league division series, came close to becoming the third pitcher in major league history to record a no-hit game in the playoffs. That bid was lost, however, when Yoenis Cespedes hit a sharp grounder up the middle with two away in the seventh.
Josh Reddick added a single for Oakland in the eighth before Joaquin Benoit relieved Verlander in the ninth, but that was small consolation for an A's team that again came up short of the ALCS after winning a division title for the second straight year.
The Tigers will open the best-of-seven league championship showdown Saturday in Boston. Detroit won the AL title last year before being swept in the World Series by San Francisco.
Miguel Cabrera, batting just .250 through the first four games of the playoffs after leading the majors with his .348 average in the regular season, put Detroit in front with a two-run homer in the fourth. That blast to left came after Torii Hunter had reached on a one-out single off rookie Sonny Gray.
With the Tigers having grabbed the lead, the spotlight fell on Verlander -- already the owner of two no-hit games in his nine-year career.
He retired the first 16 men he faced before walking Reddick on a 3-2 pitch with one away in the sixth. The hit by Cespedes came one inning later and halted Verlander's run at baseball history.
The only no-hit games thrown in the playoffs have been authored by Don Larsen of the New York Yankees in 1956 and Roy Halladay of Philadelphia in 2010. Larsen's no-hitter was a perfect game thrown against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series.
Verlander was also trying to become just the sixth pitcher in major league history with three no-hitters. He would have joined Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Cy Young, Larry Corcoran and Bob Feller. Ryan holds the record with seven.
Gray was chosen to start the final game of the division series over veteran Bartolo Colon. Gray posted a 5-3 regular-season record with a 2.67 earned run average. He allowed three runs on six hits in five innings.
After Verlander gave way to Benoit in the ninth, the Detroit closer created some brief excitement in the ninth.