DETROIT — Justin Verlander allowed a home run to the first batter of the game — and quickly shrugged it off.
This hard-throwing ace doesn't usually hit his stride until a bit later.
Verlander shut down Oakland after that early slip, and Alex Avila homered in the fifth inning to lift the Detroit Tigers over the Athletics, 3-1, on Saturday night in the opener of their best-of-five AL playoff.
Verlander allowed three hits in seven innings and matched his career postseason high with 11 strikeouts. As usual, he seemed stronger in the later innings, striking out the side in the sixth and the first two hitters of the seventh. That made up for Coco Crisp's home run that quieted the Comerica Park crowd just one batter into the game.
“I was a little out of synch but was able to get some outs with guys on base and keep the score at one run,” Verlander said. “The adrenaline got me a little bit early.”
Joaquin Benoit pitched the eighth, and Jose Valverde struck out two in a perfect ninth for the save.
Oakland's Jarrod Parker allowed two earned runs in 6 1⁄3 innings and was tagged with the loss.
Game 2 is Sunday, with Doug Fister taking the mound for Detroit and left-hander Tommy Milone for Oakland.
It was only the second victory for Detroit in its last seven series openers.
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