(SportsNetwork.com) - Justin Verlander can put a seasons worth of frustration behind him on Saturday, as he tries to give the Detroit Tigers a commanding two games to none lead over the Oakland Athletics in the best-of-five American League Division Series at O.co Coliseum. Verlander nowhere near resembled the pitcher who not only won an AL Cy Young back in 2011, but was also the leagues MVP. The hard-throwing righty never got into a groove and ended the year 13-12 with his highest ERA (3.46), lowest strikeout rate (23.5 percent) and lowest innings total (218 1/3) since 2008, while battling reduced velocity. "I honestly dont look at myself any differently. We arent robots, things arent always perfect, and this is a season that opened my eyes to that fact," said Verlander, who didnt allow a run over his last two starts and pitched to a 2.27 ERA in September. "The last couple of years came pretty easy to me, right from the Spring Training, from the jump street, it was like, OK, my pitches are good, go from here. "This year wasnt like that. I would fix something and that would cause a kink in the chain, and I would fix that. It was a matter of getting myself to where I need to do be. It was a year-long battle. Im not going to lie. This is something I worked on from early in the season until a couple of weeks ago, and I felt like the last couple of starts were where I needed to be. Its funny that it took all year, but hopefully I figured it out and peaking at the right time." Verlander, of course, tossed a shutout in Game 5 versus the As last year in the ALDS, but he has been pretty pedestrian in the postseason, pitching to a 4.22 ERA in 12 starts. Even with the off year from Verlander, the Tigers starting staff still led the AL in almost every major category. A big reason for that was the play of Max Scherzer, who put forth a Cy Young caliber season of his own with a major league-best 21 wins. Scherzer was again on the mark in Game 1 on Friday, as he allowed two runs and struck out 11 over seven innings in Detroits 3-2 win. Miguel Cabreras RBI single highlighted Detroits three-run first, which was more than enough cushion for the 21-game winner Scherzer (1-0), who surrendered just three hits. "I thought Scherzer was pretty well locked in all night, he was awful determined," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "I think he was thrilled to get Game 1, I think it meant a lot to him." Victor Martinez tallied two hits and a run scored, while Alex Avila added a pair of hits and an RBI for the defending AL-champion Tigers. Teams have gone up 2-0 in the ALDS 22 times and advanced in 18 of them. Bartolo Colon (0-1), whose 18 regular-season wins were second-best in the AL, yielded three runs on 10 hits over six innings. Colon never got a chance to pitch in last years ALDS. He served a 50-game ban for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Yoenis Cespedes smacked a two-run homer and a triple, accounting for two of Oaklands three hits against Scherzer. The As struck out 16 times. On Saturday the As will turn to rookie right-hander Sonny Gray, who was terrific down the stretch. Gray was 5-3 overall on the season, but 3-1 in September with a 2.79 ERA in five starts. "Its something you really look forward to, growing up, and hopefully someday you get a chance to do it," Gray said. "Fortunately for me, this is my second, maybe third month in the big leagues and Im getting to start a playoff game. There are a lot of guys in this game who said they wished theyd gotten the opportunity and they just havent been on a playoff team. Im very fortunate and Im just going to try and go out there and make the most of it." Gray has never faced the Tigers, but pitched to a 1.90 ERA in six home starts and struck out 38 batters over 40 2/3 innings of those outings. "The problem with Sonny Gray," said Leyland, "is we dont know much about him, other than what weve seen on TV." Detroit, which lost four of seven games against the As during the season, has beaten Oakland the last two times these teams have met in the postseason. The As only win against the Tigers in the playoffs came in the 1972 ALCS, which started a run of three consecutive world titles for Oakland. Game 3 will be in Detroit on Monday. wholesalenfljerseyscheapusa.com
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. -- Jerome Verrier scored once and set up two more as the Drummondville Voltigeurs downed the visiting Chicoutimi Sagueneens 5-1 on Friday in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League play.CHICAGO -- As their win total plummeted last season, one thing remained steady for the Chicago White Sox -- their faith in Robin Ventura. The White Sox rewarded their manager with a multi-year contract extension Friday, announcing the move hours before their annual fan convention opened. The terms were not disclosed. The extension comes after the White Sox dropped from second in the AL Central in Venturas first season to last with 99 losses in his second year. "You lose 99 games, there are going to be questions like that, about where this organizations headed and why they think the people in charge are the right people to get them through their end goal," general manager Rick Hahn said. "I would say we saw in 2012 and 2013 two extremes in terms of being a first-place club and being a club that was a disappointed in terms of performance. Throughout each of those extremes, Robins leadership was unwavering." Venturas contract was set to expire after this year. He turned down an extension before the 2013 season, leading to speculation that he might not want to stick around much longer, but he insisted that wasnt the case. He wanted to give Hahn -- then in his first season as GM -- a chance to work with him before making a long-term commitment. "I just felt it was important for Rick to have a full year of doing the job, us working together," Ventura said. "Then, you have the ability and freedom to decide if Im the right guy for the job. Nothing really changed in my mind of where I want to be and what I want to do. Its just more of it being his first time going through, I just wanted to make sure he had the ability and the freedom to do that. Now with the way last year went, the off-season, a lot of communication, a lot of talks of where were headed, how were going to do it -- Im excited to just keep going." Hahn, who got bumped up from assistant GM in October 2012 to replace the promoted Ken Williams, called it a selfless act by Ventura. "(It) allowed me the latitude to get comfortable," Hahn said. "It speaks to what kind of good man he is and actuallly makes a decision like this all the easier because of it.dddddddddddd" A former All-Star third baseman, Ventura had never managed at any level when he replaced Ozzie Guillen. And the results his first season were promising. The White Sox led the Central for much of 2012 before finishing second to Detroit with 85 wins, but there was a huge drop-off last year. Chicago wound up last in the division at 63-99, giving Ventura a 148-176 mark in two seasons. The White Sox hit just .249 as a team and their home run total dropped from third in the majors at 211 to 19th at 148. With little speed, there was no way to make up for the drop in power, and compounding the problem was the poor play on defence. They went from leading the majors in fielding percentage to ranking 29th, with Alexei Ramirez committing 22 errors and tying the Cubs Starlin Castro for the major league lead among shortstops. "Its imperative that we show improvement," Hahn said. "Its imperative that we show growth, especially on the position player side. We feel we have the ability to contend. But the most important thing for us is going to be allowing these young guys room to grow." Venturas steady hand, his ability to relate, came up over and over on Friday. Its why the White Sox believe he is the right manager, particularly on a team with some key young players. They signed Cuban slugger Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract, hoping he can add pop. Theyll have a full year with outfielder Avisail Garcia after acquiring him from Detroit in the midseason deal that sent Jake Peavy to Boston, too. Theyve added some youth, athleticism, to their lineup. They believe they have enough pitching to compete with Chris Sale leading the rotation, even if they didnt land Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka. And they insist Venturas the man to lead them. "He just doesnt miss on how to handle guys," longtime star Paul Konerko said. "Hes stern with them, he gets his point across. But for a team of this makeup, Robin is such a good fit. Im glad he would want to stay." ' ' '