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Detroit advances to ALCS

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Justin Verlander struck out 11 in a four-hitter to send the Detroit Tigers back to the AL championship series, beating the Oakland Athletics 6-0 in the decisive Game 5 of their division series Thursday night.

After squandering two chances to clinch the series, including blowing a two-run ninth-inning lead in Game 4, Verlander became Detroit’s ultimate closer.

The Tigers will face either the New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles, tied at 2-all heading into their Game 5 on Friday night in New York. Game 1 of the ALCS is scheduled for Saturday.

Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP, was so sharp nobody in the bullpen ever got up to throw. He struck out 22 in his wins on both ends of this nail-biting series.

Nationals 2, Cardinals 1

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Nationals signed Jayson Werth to show them how to win. His game-ending homer Thursday night extended their surprising season.

Werth led off the bottom of the ninth inning by driving Lance Lynn’s 13th pitch into the left-field stands to give the Nationals a 2-1 victory over the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals and force a Game 5 in their NL division series.

The homer was Werth’s first with the Nationals but 14th of his career in the postseason. He won the 2008 World Series and a string of division titles with the Philadelphia Phillies before moving to Washington as a free agent before last season on a $126 million contract that stunned much of baseball.

O’s 2, Yankees 1

NEW YORK (AP) — J.J. Hardy hit an RBI double in the 13th inning and the Baltimore Orioles bounced back from a demoralizing loss to outlast the New York Yankees 2-1 Thursday night, forcing a deciding Game 5 in the AL division series.

After splitting 22 games this year, it all comes down this: a winner-take-all for a spot in the AL championship series.

Game 1 winner CC Sabathia is set to pitch the deciding game for the Yankees. Orioles manager Buck Showalter had not announced his starter.

Eric Chavez, pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez, lined out to end the game shortly after midnight.

The Orioles were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position until Hardy doubled off David Phelps with one out to score Manny Machado.

Phelps had relieved in the 12th after Joba Chamberlain was hit by a flying broken bat, forcing him to leave with a bruised right elbow.