DET@OAK GM5: Leyland on Tigers advancing to the ALCS

Q.  You've been asked to summarize Justin Verlander so many times, Jim, over these years, and yet you were dealing with a different situation with him even a month ago. Can you explain what happened here culminated by tonight over the last thirty days?

JIM LEYLAND:  He's getting downhill now. He's back in a really good rhythm. I think it was a lot to his mechanic thing that he talked about. I didn't know much about it. He's gotten mechanically back in sync, got all his pitches.

He was locked in tonight. This was a big challenge for him. He did it here last year, he's done it on several occasions for us, and he did it once again.

Q.  Jim, was there a point in the eighth inning where you decided that would be his last? Did you check with him?

JIM LEYLAND:  To be honest with you, we checked with him, he was really tired after the eighth, and felt like he could go back out, but I said, No, you're not going back out.

Once they tell you that they're tired, these guys are pretty good with me, to be honest with you. He felt like he could probably go out but couldn't get out of a jam, and I said, I'm not going to do that to my closer, you're done.

He was good about it. It was the right move, whether it worked or not.

Q.  As he's dominating, do you allow yourself to start thinking about a perfect game, no hitter, is that in your mind?

JIM LEYLAND:  You know, when we started the series we thought we had it set up right.

We knew we had two choices in Game 5, we had to spend Max in Game 4, we had to do it, so that left Justin for Game 5, which would have been an option no matter what. But Max would have pitched Game 5.

Justin rises to the occasion. I can usually tell by the look on his face and his demeanor prior to a game when he's zeroed in and locked in and he was locked in tonight.

Q.  Why do you think it is that Justin Verlander, especially the last couple of years like you just characterized it, was locked in? How is it that he's so locked in against this Oakland ballclub?

JIM LEYLAND:  I don't have an answer for that. I talked about that pregame. You know, it just works out that way sometimes. Sometimes a guy can really pitch well against a certain team and pitch five days later against somebody else and get knocked around. It's hard to figure out.

But when this guy has it going, he pitches well against everybody. He used the fastball a lot tonight and when you got that fastball, he's got three well‑above average Major League pitches and another one that's at least average and maybe a little bit better. When you've got four pitches above average and a couple of them really above average, you can shut down a lot of teams.

Q.  How do you compare Justin Verlander's Game 5 start last year to this start tonight?

JIM LEYLAND:  This was better because that one last year was a long, long time ago, and this one is pretty current. So I'll take this one, tonight (smiling).

Q.  The Miguel Cabrera home run came with a top‑half body swing. You haven't been able to get those out of him for the last six weeks.

JIM LEYLAND:  When you got Miguel Cabrera and Prince and Victor, they could explode at any time and Cabrera came through for us tonight. Prince swung the bat good, Victor swung the bat good, Jhonny swung the bat good. When we get these guys going, we're a dangerous club. Just like anybody else.

Oakland, my hats off to them. This Oakland team is a very tough team. I talked about this today. The Oakland team in some ways is a real tough, tough kinda young club, a little in between. Now we're going to go play a tough, tough, more veteran team, probably.

So a lot of credit goes out to this Oakland team. They're a terrific team. Once again Bob has done a fantastic job with them. We're fortunate. I don't know how it happened, but we've been able to celebrate a few times in this ballpark and it's crazy. I don't know how it happens.

Q.  How worried were you or started to get worried in the ninth inning when Benoit had the two runners on base?

JIM LEYLAND:  I was nervous because Seth Smith has had a good series. I thought it was a good move by Bob. He put him in the second game, and from then on, he responded well, he had a couple of big hits at our place.

It's amazing how your emotions go from down to up and up to down, whatever. But the first two outs, Coco Crisp has been terrific the whole series, when we got him out, I felt better. The second out, I felt pretty darn good, and all of the sudden two guys on with Seth Smith hitting, I wasn't very comfortable.

Q.  Did you doubt yourself for a moment from removing Justin Verlander from Benoit?

JIM LEYLAND:  I just explained that. If you were listening, Justin Verlander was dead tired and he told me after the eighth inning, he said, I'm dead tired, but I can go out there.

There was no way I was going to put him out there. If he got in trouble and put my reliever in after he got in trouble, I wanted my reliever to have some room to play with.

Q.  Jim, have you thought about Boston and the challenges that the Red Sox present for you guys?

JIM LEYLAND:  If you watch the Red Sox, they have a tough club, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Jonny Gomes, Big Papi. I'm not saying they're tougher than Oakland. I'm saying they're a more veteran team. Oakland is a younger club.

We're going to Boston and we'll see how this all plays out.

Q.  Jim, would Sanchez start Game 1 in Boston Saturday night?

JIM LEYLAND:  We're probably going to announce our pitching rotation tomorrow, so please be patient with us. But I can tell you, it looks like Sanchez in Game 1. I don't want to take it any further than that right now.

We have an obligation to the media tomorrow in Boston. We're not going to get there until 8:00 in the morning, but we have an obligation to meet and we will work out just a little bit to get used to the field, but not too long.

I'm sure we will be prepared to announce our rotation, but it is Sanchez in Game 1.

Oct. 10 Justin Verlander postgame interview

DET@OAK Gm5: Verlander shares thoughts on near no-no

Q.  Justin, your last four starts 27 innings pitched, 15 hits, six walks, 43 strikeouts. What's going on?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  I'm pitching the way I'm supposed to. I worked my butt off all year to try to get consistent and get myself where I needed to be. I feel like it finally paid off at the end of the year.

It wasn't easy. It was a battle for me all year long. But I felt like I was finally able to make a couple of adjustments that I was able to make and get myself to be more consistent.

Q.  Justin, your manager said a few minutes ago that he could tell coming in you had that "look" about you before the game, that he felt like you had this performance in you. When did you get that feeling that you had what you needed here tonight?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  When I woke up this morning. You know, it's just you know a big game is comin'. I wake up and the only thing I'm thinking about is my game plan and visualizing and executing.

Obviously once you get to the park, it goes into a different mode. All the nerves and angst starts to build and I've been here before, there is nothing you can do about it. You've got to hone it and use it to your advantage.

Q.  We talked before the series started about dealing with mechanics. While you're standing out there versus the last couple starts, we've seen just competing, getting after it and not being weighed down with thoughts. What's it like to go out there and stand and be "you" again?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  It feels great. Nothing in the back of my mind except making my pitches. It's a good feeling. That's what I've worked so hard for this year, is to be able to get to this point. Knowing from jump street that things weren't right this year, I battled and was making end‑game and mid‑game adjustments, throwing multiple bullpens. You don't want to think about it too much, but it's hard to do when you're trying to find something to make it click.

But it was a good time to find it here this last month.

Q.  I heard people tonight call you a "big game" pitcher. Do you consider yourself a "big game" pitcher when everything is on the line? No thought of a no‑hitter going through your head tonight?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  Big game pitcher, that's something people want to talk about. I just go out there when my team needs me the most.

Obviously it's something that you dream about as a kid. It's a win or go home, you visualize when you're 10 years old in your backyard, Game 5, Game 7, gotta win. It's pretty exciting to have gone out there twice in that scenario and done a good job.

What was the second part?

Q.  No thoughts of a no‑hitter?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  Yeah, there were thoughts of a no‑hitter. I shoved those to the back of my mind. I think you see guys have no‑hitters late in a game and give up a hit and the wheels kinda fall off, and you get erratic and you see that all the time.

That being the case, I would have liked to have thrown a no‑hitter and it was the back of my mind, but you can't let that happen in this scenario. The game is too big.

There is so much other stuff going on that you can't let a hit late in the game change your focus. I stepped myself off the mound and told myself to refocus and execute. That was the word of the day for me in my head "relax" and "execute."

Q. You said last year Game 5 in Oakland that it was the best start of your career. How do you value this start compared to last year's?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  Pretty close. Obviously I would have liked to have gone nine, but I was running on fumes there, and I talked with Jim and Jeff about that and I told 'em, Hey, I'm getting a little low here. I said, I want to go back out there, though.

And Jim made an excellent point, and he said, I don't want to send you back out there and get somebody on base and bring in Joaquin with somebody on base and already in a little bit of trouble.

Typically, when you bring in a closer, you want to bring him in and let him do his job. That's what he's used to doing. He's in his comfort zone do that.

As soon as he said that, it made complete sense to me and I said, All right, sounds good.

Q.  All your teammates around you dumping the nonalcoholic champagne on you, what does that feel like?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  It burns. Feels fantastic! No better feeling than to have your teammates surround you and pour champagne on you after a big game. Your emotions are running so high the whole game, and it's just kind of a sigh of relief after the game is over and you've won.

To have everybody support me, and obviously, you know, it's not just me, Miguel hit a big home run for us, that was a turning point in the game, and great defense behind me. For those guys to do what they did for me, means a lot.

Q.  Several fans were trying to taunt you before the game. Did you pay any attention to it?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  I don't pay any attention to it. I go up in the clubhouse and get out of this atmosphere and refocus between innings. When I come back down and this ballpark is unique the way you have to walk by the fans to go out to the field, so I'm walking by the fans and they're yelling as much stuff as they can at me. There were two or three in particular that I can remember.

I wish I could have gone back out there in the ninth and walked by them one more time and maybe said something.

Q.  The photos that they were holding up, did you notice that?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  I did notice that. No comment.

Q.  Is there something about this park, whether it's the mound, the configuration, the environment that brings out the best in you?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  I think the environment has a lot to do with it. I think it's very hostile and it's a lot of fun, really, to be on the mound.

Everybody in the ballpark, 50,000 are rooting against me, and yelling as loud as they can. That's fun for me. I enjoy that. I enjoy it just as much as being at home and having that atmosphere as well. You thrive off of it.

At one point they were chanting, "Let's go Oakland" and in my head every time that they said "Oakland," I said "Tigers".

Q.  Game 2 you had some big strikeouts. This seemed so businesslike for you tonight. Was that just the attitude you took into the game?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  No, the emotional level was the same, but it was more businesslike because we got a lead early, not early but in the fourth inning, I think it was. So it was a level of focus saying, I can't allow them to score. As soon as the last out was made in the inning, it was like, Okay, refocus, go to the next inning.

Last time there was more emotion on the line because it was 0‑0, especially in the seventh when I made that pitch to get out of the seventh inning. If I give up a hit there, the game is over at that point.

So that's why I think you saw more emotion coming out of me on the field as opposed to this time.

Q.  Bob Melvin and your manager talked about your fastball and how particularly good it was today. When did you make the decision you were going to go with that pitch mainly?

JUSTIN VERLANDER:  I don't think that's a decision you make until you're in the game. In the first or second inning, I noticed it had good life and guys were swinging at it and wanted to go with it. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

I was going to make those guys show they could do something with the fastball before I went to other stuff. Obviously I'm not going to throw 100% fastballs, you gotta keep guys off balance. When I needed a big pitch, that's what I went to because of the results I was having. This is a game of adjustments and you make adjustments in the game.

That was one of the things that I noticed that stuck out to me early on was how my fastball was affecting those guys or how they weren't hitting it or seeing it well. Stuck with it.

Oct. 10 Miguel Cabrera postgame interview

DET@OAK Gm5: Miggy on battling during postseason

Q.  Miguel, we haven't seen you turn on a ball like that in a while. Were you sitting on a particular pitch from Gray or just a pitch you were able to react to?

MIGUEL CABRERA: No, no react. I mean, you have to do what you can do. We know that we're able to win. So we go out there trying to do our job. Doesn't matter what people say, doesn't matter what they are going to say about you. You gotta go out there and play your game.

Q. Miguel, was that as good as you've seen Verlander? Right up there?

MIGUEL CABRERA: He's one of the best pitchers in the game. He wins the Cy Young one year, he have an amazing year last year. He pass this year. That's Verlander.

Q. What did you notice in the difference between Sonny Gray Game 2 and tonight?

MIGUEL CABRERA: To me, he's a great pitcher. First time we see him, he pitched excellent game. We able today to be patient, try to not make mistake, try to wait and swing our pitch. We got three runs support and Benoit finish the game.

Q. You seem a little tired. Can you describe the effort to carry yourself through a series like this, what you're dealing with, all that effort to get up to get your body prepared to play three and a half hours? Is that difficult?

MIGUEL CABRERA: I mean, we're here in the playoffs, man. I said before, everybody talk about what's going on with me, you know, everybody can talk what they can talk. I want to do my job, man. I want to be with the team. I want to play with my heart.

We in good position. We got to come through like a team together and go out there on fire. And it's like a puzzle. You never know when it's going to be your last. And you got to go out there and fight to win.

Q. You said you took a different approach. Was it an adjustment or end game approach?

MIGUEL CABRERA: Yeah, adjustment, like I said. He pitch great game the first game he pitch. We got different plans. We know he going to throw strike. When he got ahead in the count, we go with that. We make adjustment and able to swing better pitches today.

Q. When that home run went out, the way that Verlander was pitching, did you think this might be enough for him to carry the rest of the way?

MIGUEL CABRERA: No, no, we talk in the dugout when we score the run, we say we got to get on base. We got to try to get on base, we got to win.